Underage drinking and driving a growing issue

Traffic on I-35 - FILE

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The first day of November not only marks the beginning of a new month, it’s also when the Austin Police Department wraps up its Halloween No Refusal initiative. KXAN will soon learn how many people have been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving since the initiative started Friday. Last year, more than 40 people were arrested during Halloween weekend.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were more than 1,600 crashes involving alcohol killing 42 people in Travis County last year. That’s up from just under 1,400, with 36 people killed in 2014. In Williamson County, there were almost 350 crashes in 2015, killing 13 people compared to less than 300 in 2014, but 17 people died.

TxDOT says alcohol is the most commonly used drug among teens and officials want you to know there is zero tolerance: it means zero alcohol. That’s the law in Texas for those under the age of 21. Unfortunately, new numbers released from TxDOT show underage drinking and driving is still a problem–a growing problem at that.

In 2015 in Travis County, there were more than 300 DUI crashes involving someone under 21, killing 9 people. That’s nearly 100 more total crashes than the previous year and two more deaths. In Williamson County, there were 86 DUI crashes in 2015, killing two people; compared to 64 crashes in 2014, but five people died.

Those stats come from the Travis County Underage Drinking Prevention Program, a task force created to try and stop the problem and increase awareness. The director of the program told KXAN, they start going into local schools and educating at a younger age now, in some cases as early as fourth grade.

TxDOT wants to remind you, if you are under 21 it is illegal for you to drive with any detectable amount of alcohol in your system at all. You could face up to a $500 fine, a 60-day driver license suspension, 20-40 hours of community service and mandatory alcohol-awareness classes. If you’re caught a second or third time, those penalties go up.


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