We all know that teenage alcohol drinking is against the law. In fact, there are underage drinking laws in all 50 states making it illegal for anyone under they age of 21 to purchase, possess, and in most cases, consume alcoholic beverages. These laws are in place both to protect minors from the dangers of alcohol and also to protect society from dangers such as intoxicated teenage drivers.
There are a number of underage drinking laws aimed at deterring teenage alcohol drinking.
It is a Class C misdemeanor for minors to purchase, possess, or consume alcohol. Legal consequences for doing so may include fines, community service, having to attend an alcohol awareness class, and suspension of their driver’s license.
Most states have “zero tolerance” laws. This means that, while adults 21 and older are not allowed to drive while intoxicated, minors are not allowed to drive with any alcohol at all in their system. Those who do face stiff fines, loss of their driver’s license, and, if they are 17 or older, possible jail time.
In many states, if minors use a fake ID or uses someone else’s ID to purchase or attempt to purchase alcohol, their driver’s license is suspended.
Adults who supply alcohol to minors face hefty fines and possible jail time. They are also held responsible for any damage done by the intoxicated minors.
It is also illegal for a minor to give alcohol to another minor.
There are laws requiring sellers and servers of alcohol to be of a certain age, generally 18 years old.
Do these underage drinking laws really stop teenage alcohol drinking? Well, that’s debatable. Some research says yes, some says not so much. At the very least, the laws do keep some teens that drink off the roads by suspending their driver’s licenses.
The suspended driver’s licenses are actually pretty important, research says. Being able to drive is important to teens, and the thought of losing their license serves as a fairly good deterrent to illegal teenage alcohol drinking.
But the laws prohibiting underage drinking will only go so far. Education about the dangers of drinking will be needed in order to further reduce the incidence of underage drinking. Despite the laws, teens often believe alcohol is not harmful, since it is legal for adults to buy and consume. They do not perceive the risks involved in drinking.
Teenagers tend to be impulsive and risk-takers, and therefore they will often drink despite the underage drinking laws. They are also more likely than adults to drive while under the influence. Education must be aimed at providing them the information they need to understand the reasoning behind these laws.
Education about drinking should include information about the dangers of driving while under the influence; the health risks of drinking; and the risk of alcohol addiction, and all that that entails. Since research indicates that two out of five fifth graders have consumed alcohol, alcohol awareness education should begin prior than that time, and continue throughout the teen years.
While much of this education may take place in schools, research indicates that parents can play an important role. Teens whose parents talk to them about alcohol abuse are far less likely to drink alcohol than those whose parents do not discuss the issue with them.
Teens are also easily influenced by their peers. Therefore education must arm them with the ability to say no to peers who encourage them to drink despite underage drinking laws. In fact, with the proper education in place, “positive peer pressure” can be created, so that teens actually discourage one another from drinking.