Young Drinkers to Lose License

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Gov. George Ryan is cracking down on underage drinkers.

Experts say a new law could succeed at deterring young drinkers, but its bringing with it some controversy.

Under the new law which Gov. Ryan signed Tuesday, underage drinkers face tough penalties if caught, as tough as losing their license for a year.

Ryan says he hopes the law reduces the number of car accidents involving underage drinkers, but others are split in opinion.

Many teens consider it a right of passage, getting drunk in college or even high school.

But that right of passage could mean the end of another, getting behind the wheel. The new law requires local officials to notify the secretary of state when someone under 21 is caught drinking illegally or using a fake ID.

The state can then suspend the offender's driving privileges for a year. Not only that, but some experts say the law could stop addiction before it starts. Teens meanwhile are torn on whether the law is fair and more importantly will work.

The last major law that was passed regarding underage drinking was the zero tolerance law which punishes teens for driving after any amount of alcohol.

Since that went to effect there's been a 56-percent drop in arrests and fatalities related to underage drinking and driving.

Those in favor of this new law hope to see the same results. Extended Web Coverage

Teen Alcohol Abuse

  • 10 million Americans between ages 12-20 had at least one drink in the last month.

  • Of the 10 million, five million were binge drinkers (having five or more drinks in a row), 2.3 million were heavy drinkers (consuming five or more drinks in a row on a single occasion).

  • Eighty percent of high school seniors have used alcohol; in comparison, 65 percent have smoked cigarettes; 50 percent have used marijuana; and 10 percent have used cocaine.

  • Approximately two-thirds of teenagers who drink report that they can buy their own alcoholic beverages.

  • Use of alcohol and other drugs is associated with the leading causes of death and injury (e.g., motor-vehicle crashes, homicides, and suicides) among teenagers and young adults.

  • The total cost of alcohol use by youth--including traffic crashes, violent crime, burns, drowning, suicide attempts, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisonings and treatment--is more than $58 billion per year.

  • First use of alcohol typically begins around the age 13.

  • Among teenagers who binge drink, 39 percent say they drink alone; 58 percent drink when they are upset; 30 percent drink when they are bored; and 37 percent drink to feel high.

  • Eighty percent of teenagers don't know that a 12 oz. can of beer has the same amount of alcohol as a shot of whiskey; similarly, 55 percent don't know that a 5 oz. glass of wine and a 12 oz. can of beer have the same amount of alcohol.

  • Teenagers whose parents talk to them regularly about the dangers of drugs are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those whose parents don't, yet only 1 in 4 teens reports having these conversations.

Source: National Council on Alcoholism contributed to this report