Several states consider efforts to protect young drivers, children

| 7/19/2006

In an effort to address underage drinking and driving lawmakers in several states have discussed or continue to discuss legislation to help curb the problem.

One of the states to act is Florida, where a new law could cost people, including parents, their driving privileges for providing alcohol to underage drinkers.

Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill, SB1322, into law last month that will allow judges to order the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to withhold issuance, revoke or suspend violators’ licenses for three to six months for a first offense. Repeat offenders could face up to a year without driving.

The penalties, which take effect Oct. 1, will be tacked on to existing $500 fines for supplying alcohol to children.

“Protecting our youth from illegally accessing alcohol is critical in our fight against underage drinking. We all want to keep Florida’s youth safe,” Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, said in a written statement.

While officials in Florida prepare for their new law, a similar effort recently was introduced in the Michigan House.

Michigan proposal
Sponsored by Rep. Rick Baxter, R-Concord, the Michigan bill would suspend drivers’ licenses of adults who buy alcohol for minors. Offenders would face 90 days without a valid license.

Baxter said the penalty is needed as a deterrent because nearly half of all fatal teen crashes involve alcohol.

The bill – HB6214 – is in the House Transportation Committee.

Louisiana’s new law
Not to be outdone, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco has signed a bill into law that will fine or jail adults who let minors drive without a license. The new rules take effect Aug. 15.

The new law, previously SB222, makes the adult who gives an unlicensed minor the keys, and the young driver who gets behind the wheel, subject to fines and jail time.

The new law specifies that if an adult allows an unlicensed driver under 18 to drive and the youth is involved in a wreck resulting in injury or death, the adult will face up to six months in jail and/or fines between $500 and $1,000.

Illegal drivers will face up to six months in jail and/or fines between $100 and $500 simply for driving without a license. If a youth is involved in a wreck that results in serious injury or death, they will face up to six months in jail and/or fines of $500 to $1,000.