Outlaw driving after any drinking by teens, says panel

April 22, 1993|By Boston Globe

BOSTON -- To help save the lives of thousands of teen-agers, state legislatures should make it illegal for young people to drive after drinking any amount of alcohol, a national panel of law enforcement and public health specialists recommends.

In most states, under-age drinkers are not prosecuted for drunken driving unless their blood alcohol content exceeds 0.10 percent, the adult standard for legal drunkenness in most states.

But, since it is illegal for people under age 21 to use alcohol at all, minors should be prosecuted whenever they are found to have consumed any amount of alcohol before driving, the panel said.

Fifteen states already have lowered the legal standard for drinking by minors, including Maine, which in 1983 set 0.02 percent as the legal blood alcohol level for minors. Maine has experienced a steep decline in the number of teen-agers killed since then, according to the panel.

The panel, chaired by former Maine Gov. Joseph Brennan and made up of representatives of law enforcement and public health agencies, heard testimony from various specialists involved in alcohol use by teen-agers.

The panel was appointed by Join Together, a Boston-based national organization that helps community efforts to stem substance abuse. Join Together focused on alcohol after its survey of 2,000 community anti-drug organizations nationwide revealed that teen-age drinking was considered a major problem.

"We hope community leaders will review and act on these recommendations," said David Rosenbloom, executive director of Join Together.

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