Drinking, Driving, and Prom Night: What You Need to Know About Underage Intoxicated Driving

It is almost prom season for high school students across North Carolina. Teens in Raleigh, Fayetteville, Wilmington, and other cities throughout the state will be getting ready for prom by making plans with friends and significant others. While prom night should be an exciting time for high school students, it is also an event that can present serious dangers. To be sure, prom night drinking and driving can result in serious and fatal injuries.

Teens and their parents should understand the very serious risks of underage drinking and driving on prom night. If you have questions about filing a claim related to teen drinking and driving, an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney can assist you.

Getting the Facts About Prom Night Drinking and Driving

Although teens are not allowed to purchase alcohol in North Carolina, drinking, driving, and prom night are words that often coincide in teens’ minds. According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, only 6 percent of students surveyed in a study by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual Insurance reported that that they had driven under the influence of alcohol on prom night. Yet, nine out of 10 teens believe that their peers are likely to drink and drive on prom night. Even if the percentage of teens who drink and drive after prom is in the single digits, that number is still too high.

What are some facts about underage drinking? A fact sheet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites the following statistics concerning drunk driving and teenagers:

  • Far fewer teens are drinking and driving than in prior decades. The rate of underage drinking and driving has declined by about 54 percent since 1991. Even so, there are still around 2.4 million incidents of teenage intoxicated driving every month across the U.S.;
  • Binge drinking is a serious factor in teenage drunk driving accidents. Around 85 percent of teens who admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol also admitted to binge drinking (or having five or more drinks within a short period of time);
  • About 20 percent of teenagers involved in fatal car accidents had been drinking, and more than 80 percent had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) higher than 0.08 percent— the legal limit for adults;
  • The percentage of teens who admit to drinking and driving is lower in North Carolina (between 4.6 percent and 8.9 percent of teenagers) than in other states;
  • In some states, nearly 15 percent of high school students admit to drinking and driving; and
  • Males have a higher rate of teenage drunk driving than females.

Taking Steps to Prevent Teenage Drinking and Driving Accidents

Recognizing the risks of prom night accidents and underage drunk driving, the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) recently played a role in putting on a “Night of Conversation on Underage Drinking” in Asheboro, according to a report in The Courier-Tribune. One of the reasons that we continue to see so many teen drunk driving collisions in North Carolina is that many parents do not recognize the risks of underage intoxicated driving and the importance of addressing prom night drinking.

In response to the high rate of teen drinking and driving, the N.C. ABC has created a website, www.TalkItOutNC.org, which is a campaign aimed at reducing the number of underage intoxicated driving incidents and crashes. According to the campaign, around 94 percent of middle school students and high school students in North Carolina “believe that underage drinking is a problem,” while more than half (54 percent) describe it as a “big problem.” The average age at which a North Carolina teenager consumes his or her first drink of alcohol is at the age of 14. Talk It Out NC emphasizes that North Carolina “loses at least one person per week due to underage drinking.”

North Carolina Law on Underage Drinking and Driving

What happens if a teenager is caught drinking and driving on prom night in Raleigh? North Carolina has a Zero Tolerance Law for underage drinking and driving. That means that anyone under the age of 21 who is caught driving with any amount of alcohol in his or her system can be penalized. Penalties include the following:

  • Required immediate surrender of driver’s license, $100 fee for return of license after 30 days, and insurance premium increase by 400 percent over the next three years;
  • One-year suspension of driver’s license upon conviction of underage drinking and driving (for a first-time offender), and conviction of a Class 2 misdemeanor, which can include penalties of community service or jail time and a fine of up to $1,000; and
  • Subsequent convictions of underage drinking result in steeper penalties.

There are also substantial penalties for even consuming alcohol if you are underage, as well as significant consequences if you are an adult aged 21 or older and provide alcohol to underage persons.

Preventing Teen Drinking and Driving on Prom Night This Year

What can we do to prevent prom night drinking and driving? According to Talk It Out NC and the CDC, the onus is on both parents and lawmakers. For parents in Fayetteville, Raleigh, or Wilmington, you should consider the following tips to help prevent a teen drinking and driving accident this spring:

  • Recognize the serious risks of underage drinking and driving, and understand the important role that parents play in reducing prom night accidents;
  • Model safe driving behavior for your teenager;
  • Encourage your teenager to be open with you and to feel safe contacting you for a ride home in the event that alcohol consumption has occurred;
  • Create a driving agreement with your teenager, which includes a promise for your child to follow North Carolina traffic laws, to wear a seatbelt on every trip, and to always avoid drunk driving; and
  • Use an app to track your teen driver, such as Canary or DriveScribe.

Contact a Car Accident Attorney in North Carolina

Prom night drinking and driving in North Carolina puts teens at risk of injuries in a car accident. It also puts others who share the road at risk. If you or someone you love got hurt because of a drunk driver, you may have a right to seek compensation for your injuries and related expenses. You should discuss your case with a car accident lawyer in North Carolina as soon as possible. Contact Hardison & Cochran today to learn more about how we can help with your case.

About the Author

Hardison & Cochran was established based on the conviction that a modern approach was essential in today’s legal landscape. Focused on delivering exceptional results through a skilled team, the firm prioritizes personal attention, integrity, and client needs. Each attorney, paralegal, and staff member is dedicated to this vision. Over three decades, with Ben Cochran overseeing daily operations, the firm has evolved into a highly respected practice.

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