Throughout the U.S. drinking alcohol is against the law for anyone under 21 years of age. The drinking age, however, had not prevented people under 21 from disobeying and drinking, nor has it stopped them from getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or other substances. According to teen car accident statistics from the Center for Disease Control, 2650 teens between 16 and 19 were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2011, with another 292,000 receiving emergency room treatment due to crash injuries. Further teen driver statistics from the CDC points out that motor vehicle crashes happen most to people between 16-19, which is more often than other age groups. Teen drivers in this group are three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers 20 years old or older.
Age isn’t the only factor in these crashes. Male drivers and passengers in this age group experience twice the fatalities as females. Who is in the car matters too. The more teens that are riding in the vehicle, especially without supervision, the more likely it is that a crash will occur. Teens with a new license are also at a higher risk of being involved in a crash.
Drinking and Driving is Still a Problem
Legal or not, the reality is that many teens drink. A 2013 survey showed that half of all 10th graders admitted that they drank alcohol. Across the US, licensed drivers under 21 are responsible for 17% of fatal alcohol related crashes, even though only 10% of licensed drivers are under 21.
Teenaged drivers and their passengers are hurt and/or killed in motor vehicle accidents for a number of reasons. They are less likely than other age groups to wear seatbelts, and they also fall prey to distractions such as cell phone use and texting. Although distracted driving has received a lot of much needed attention, it is important not to forget that drinking and driving is still a major contributor to teen car accidents. For example, it was found that male drivers between 15-20 who were in fatal crashes in 2012, were speeding 37% of the time and had been drinking a quarter of the time.
Many teens are not as careful about riding with impaired drivers as they should be, A 2013 national survey revealed that over the last month, 22% had ridden in a car with someone who had been drinking. In the same month, 10% of students that drove admitted to drinking and driving.
Maryland DUI laws and Penalties for Underage Drinkers
Too many young people die on Maryland roads due to alcohol. 1 in 3 of the drivers who were killed in Maryland crashes due to being impaired by alcohol were under 24 years old. It’s because of statistics like these that Maryland’s DUI laws and penalties are stricter for underage drinkers. To begin with, the legal blood alcohol limit for underage drivers is .02, while it is .08 for drivers over 21. Unfortunately, teen driver statistics show that in fatal accidents, the BAC is .40 on average due to binge drinking. Sobering up isn’t a matter of drinking coffee or taking a cold shower. It just takes time. Most people metabolize one standard drink (12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor) each hour. If you’re trying to sober up before getting behind the wheel, or helping someone else do the same, make sure the driver is able to take the time they need before leaving, or see that they find a ride with a safe and sober driver.
Even a first offense can result in 2 months of jail time, a fine up to $1,000 and a 6 month license suspension. A second drunk driving conviction within a five year period can bring a year of imprisonment, a fine of up to $2,000 and a year without a license. Other penalties can be tacked onto DUI charges, such as being a minor in possession of alcohol, child endangerment, possessing false identification and more. Auto insurance rates can skyrocket as well — going up by as much as $200 per month, with many insurance providers refusing to insure entirely.
Even the most sober and conscientious drivers need to be aware that although they can control their own safe driving practices, their power is limited when it comes to everyone else on the road. Having a good foundation helps. Elite Driving School with locations throughout Maryland is the only driving school in the state that has earned approval from AAA, as well as an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. In addition to teen driver education programs that emphasize defensive driving in both the classroom and behind the wheel portions of the program, we also offer services that benefit older drivers. Our Maryland Driver Improvement Program satisfies MVA requirements for a completion certificate, and we also offer private lessons to both teens and adults who need extra instruction for whatever reason.