Texas officials and safety advocates are pushing for new approaches to educating teens about the dangers of teenage drunk driving.
Of Texans under age 21 who were killed in traffic crashes in 2009, 185 were drunk themselves or were in a car with a drunk driver.
Texas has a rate of five alcohol-related driving fatalities per 100,000 people. For those under 21, the rate is 2.3 alcohol-related driving fatalities per 100,000 people.
Although teen fatalities caused by drunk drivers in Texas dropped by over 42 percent from 1999 to 2009, the numbers are still unsettling for many. Alcohol is an influential factor in 37 percent of all motor vehicle deaths for teenagers ages 16 to 20.
Public education is important in the effort to reduce the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. There are numerous groups working to educate teens and young people about the realities of drinking and driving. Among these advocates are public safety officials, drunk driving awareness / safety advocate groups, drunk driver injury lawyers and even teenagers who want to make a difference.
Teens Working to End Teenage Drunk Driving
In Houston, a group of teens recognized the dangerous behavior of their peers and came together to send a life-saving, simple message: don’t drink and drive.
Members of the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the Houston Police Department recently organized a documentary detailing the stories of victims and survivors of Houston drunk driving. The local officials, who witnessed the blatancy and widespread popularity of underage drinking within their community, felt the message would be more meaningful and relatable if the film was made for teens, by teens.
The group of 13 teens worked hard on creating the documentary. They wrote, produced, edited and interviewed victims and survivors.
Falling Through the Cracks
According to Texas law, a minor found driving with any detectable amount of alcohol in his or her system is guilty of DUI, a class “C” misdemeanor. A minor charged with DUI faces up to a $500 fine, a mandatory alcohol awareness education course, community service and driver’s license suspension.
Some safety advocates are concerned that teens are falling through the cracks and that teens struggling with alcohol problems aren’t getting the help they need.
There are more organizations coming to the same realizations — that new approaches to reach teens may be more effective in reducing the number of teens killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes. We applaud those teenagers who had the courage to speak to their own peers about the dangers of teenage drunk driving.