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Strategies for Reducing Underage Drinking

In 2007, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a call to public health organizations to come up with strategies to reduce underage alcohol consumption. Even though the legal drinking age in the United States is 21, binge drinking and alcohol abuse among middle school, high school and college students causes more than 4,300 deaths per year, including more than 1,000 traffic-related fatalities. While there is some evidence that certain preventive measures can make a difference, more must be done to address this problem.

The federal underage drinking alert was based on some alarming facts about people between the ages of 12 and 20:

  • They are responsible for 11 percent of all alcohol consumption.
  • 25 percent reported drinking within the past month.
  • 16 percent reported binge drinking within the past month.

A 2011 report on high school alcohol-related behaviors found the following:

  • 39 percent reported drinking within the past month.
  • 22 percent reported binge drinking within the past month.
  • 8 percent drove after drinking.
  • 24 percent got in a car with someone who drank.

Driver license restrictions that prohibit nighttime driving and make license suspension mandatory following a driving under the influence (DUI) arrest are credited with reducing the number of underage traffic fatalities. In fact, one study reported that zero tolerance license policies can reduce underage drunk driving by half.

Pennsylvania is one of the states that have implemented strict penalties for underage drinking, including license suspension and hefty fines, even for a first offense. While we should take steps to prevent our youth from harming themselves or others, excessive punitive actions can do more harm than good in some cases. If you or a member of your family is arrested on an underage drinking charge, your best strategy is to contact a criminal defense attorney who represents underage DUI clients. In many circumstances, underage drinking charges can be reduced or changed to disorderly conduct.

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