Craig KuharyCriminal Defense
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For teens, driving can sometimes amount to risky business

The good news is that for drivers under the age of 21, the rate of drunk driving fatalities has declined by 27% from 2007 to 2017 according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

The not-so-good news is that the fatal accident rate for 16- to 19-year-olds is almost three times that of drivers who are 20 and older. For young people, driving can be a risky business.

An ongoing problem

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that in 2017, 21.4 million people aged 16 and up were drinking and driving. And in 2019, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that approximately one in three traffic fatalities involved a driver with a blood alcohol content level of 0.8% or above.

Other issues

Drinking and driving is not the only problem for young people, however. There is a learning curve and they have to get through it. Statistics from the NHTSA show that in 2016, speed played a role in 31% of all teen driver deaths. An article in the Journal of Adolescent Health cites an issue with independence: New drivers are far more likely to have either a close call or an actual crash in their first three months on a driver's license than they were during the last three months when they still had a learner's permit.

Seeking help

Despite the reduction in drunk driving fatalities over the past decade or so, drinking and driving is still a serious problem. Young drivers have trouble enough just learning how to operate a vehicle safely without adding alcohol consumption to the mix. However, a first-time charge of DUI or OWI is often a wake-up call for an underage driver. After the initial shock of arrest, the suspension of driving privileges is the next sobering event, but an advocate can assist; first in providing legal representation, and second in helping the first offender obtain an occupational license which allows driving to and from school or work. Teens find that operating a vehicle can be risky for a number of reasons, and it sometimes behooves a young driver to seek legal guidance.

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