2009-04-30 / Local & State

PennDOT Offers Sobering Reminder As End Of School Year Approaches

With proms, graduations and end-of-school-year parties fast approaching, PennDOT asks high school students and parents to remember the potentially deadly consequences of drinking and driving.

"The last few weeks of school are an exciting time, but can have devastating consequences if not celebrated safely - especially behind the wheel," said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. "Drinking alcohol impairs a wide range of skills necessary for carrying out the multiple tasks and split-second decision making required when driving. We ask students to celebrate in a safe manner and avoid dangerous or aggressive behaviors when driving."

Drivers between the ages of 16-20 were involved in 1,614 alcohol related crashes in 2008. Thirty-seven in that age group were killed in those crashes, including 24 drivers who had been drinking and 10 passengers. Three individuals in that age group were drivers of other vehicles involved in the crash who had not been drinking.

Pennsylvania's Zero Tolerance Law carries serious consequences for those under 21 who are convicted of driving with any amount of alcohol in their blood. For example, those under 21 who are convicted of driving under the influence with a .02 blood alcohol content, or greater, face severe penalties, including a 12-to- 18-month license suspension, 48 hours to six months in jail, and fines from $500 to $5,000.

PennDOT also reminds young drivers that they may lose their driving privileges for any underage drinking offense, whether or not a vehicle is involved.

It is against the law for an individual under the age of 21 to consume, possesses or transport alcohol, or lie about their age to obtain alcohol and carry a fake identification card. If convicted, the minimum penalties are a fine of up to $500, plus court costs; a 90-day license suspension for the first offense; a one-year suspension for the second offense; and a two-year suspension for the third and subsequent offenses.

Parents play an important role in advising their teens on the dangers of drinking and driving. In addition, adults may be held accountable if they supply alcohol to minors. If convicted of knowingly and intentionally supplying minors with alcohol, adults are subject to a fine of $1,000 for the first offense and $2,500 for each additional offense and face up to one year in jail. Adults are even liable for guests who drink in their homes.

In addition to not drinking and driving, PennDOT reminds young drivers to buckle up no matter where they are seated in a vehicle. In 2008, 88 individuals ages 16-20 who died in crashes were not wearing seat belts; 12 of those were riding in the second or third row of the vehicle.

Aggressive driving, particularly speeding, is another major factor in crashes involving young drivers. Speeding-related crashes involving young drivers ages 16-20 contributed to the deaths of 112 individuals of the same age group in 2008. Other aggressive driving behaviors include running red lights or stop signs, unsafe lane changes and tailgating.

For more safety tips for teens and parents, visit the Teen Driver Information Center at www.dmv.state.pa.us. Remember: Don't Drink and Drive. Buckle Up. Drive Safe PA.

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