Underage Drinkers Likely to Reoffend
According to state statistics, 12 percent of alcohol-related deaths in Texas involve a driver between 17 and 20 years old. Furthering the problem, statistics show that some of these drivers are likely to face multiple drunk driving charges in their lifetimes and potentially injure many more people.
Dealing with "Minor Adults"
In Texas, driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenders between 17 and 20 are treated as adults. Referred to as "minor adults," they can be required to take blood alcohol tests and can be held in county jail with adult criminals. Juvenile offenders, on the other hand, are often only ticketed for drunk driving offenses, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The Reality and the Consequences
Minor adults tend to view alcohol as a game and often binge drink, or drink just to get drunk. James Fell, senior program director at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation estimated that two-thirds of Texas 16 to 20-year-olds are binge drinkers.
While many minor adults arrested for DWI re-offend, Fell notes that the younger the offender, the more likely they are to face another drunk driving charge. In Dallas County between 1999 and 2009, 30 percent of the 17 to 20-year-olds arrested for DWI had at least one other offense on their record.
What Can Be Done?
Help is available for those offenders that choose probation over jail time. Unfortunately, many minor adults in Texas are opting to serve jail time rather than accept the terms of probation, get treatment for alcohol abuse or perform community service.
Dallas courts are looking at mandatory treatment programs for first-time offenders. Such an action would help get kids the assistance they need and keep them from injuring others by drinking and driving.
Despite the programs and help offered by states, many people will be injured or killed in accidents involving drunk drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 11,000 people were killed in drunk driving accidents in 2009. For those who have been injured or lost a family member at the hands of an intoxicated driver, it is important to discuss the case with an attorney.