The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration based their findings on the total number of people, both occupants and non-occupants, killed in auto accidents involving at least one teen drunk driver with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or higher. Males are more likely to be the drivers in these accidents than females. Most of the teens killed were not wearing their seatbelts; in fact, unbelted occupants account for 84% of all drunk driving fatalities in the U.S.
There has been a significant decrease in all alcohol usage by teens from 1998 to 2003, according to the NHTSA. This is due in large part to awareness programs and education, such as SADD, combined with tougher law enforcement measures, parent involvement and retailer diligence. Raising the legal drinking age to 21 has had a significant effect on these numbers, as has the enactment of zero-tolerance policies for teen drivers with any level of alcohol in their systems. The steady increase of retailers who vigilantly checking the ID's of customers attempting to purchase alcohol has also cut down on teen drinking, and in turn, teen drunk driving.
Parental involvement is of the utmost involvement in preventing teen drunk driving. Although it is commonly believed that teenagers are influenced solely by their peers, open dialogue and frequently communicated rules regarding alcohol usage and driving behavior are key to keeping teen drivers safe. Parents may want to have their teen sign a safe driving contract, agreeing to never drive after having a drink, never get into a car with someone who has had a drink, and to call home for a ride regardless of the time without fear of punishment. Parents should also be aware that they can be held legally liable for the actions of their teen if the teen is involved in an accident where alcohol was a factor.
Parents or teens in any way involved with a teen drunk driving accident should immediately contact a drunk driving attorney. The consequences for teen offenders include a felony conviction, possible homicide conviction, and a lengthy prison sentence. In 2000, a repeat DUI offender was sentenced to 60 years for vehicular homicide of four New Jersey teens. Parents of teen drunk driving offenders or of teens that were involved in providing alcohol to the offender can be held liable for any physical injury or property damage caused if they were aware that alcohol was being served and did not take measures to prevent it. Families no longer have to worry only about criminal liability, but civil as well. The same laws that allow bar owners to be sued for the actions of their patrons hold these parents liable. A drunk driving attorney can help minimize potential liability in these cases.