This I Believe

Ashley - cleveland, Georgia
Entered on November 27, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

Supporting Zero Tolerance Laws

While growing up my parents always made it clear that drinking and driving was a decision that you should never have to make. I was always brought up knowing how to choose my friends wisely and not to make decisions that could hurt my life and others as well. My grandfather was an alcoholic for many years. He began his drinking at a very young age and he would drive while intoxicated. Luckily, he never hurt anyone in the process, but he always took the risk. He finally gave up drinking and realized how much of a risk he was taking. Teenagers make absurd decisions sometimes and do not consider the chance they are taking of hurting themselves or others. Nearly one-third of all deaths of 15-20 year olds result from motor vehicle crashes. About 35 percent of these crashes are alcohol related. By having the Zero tolerance law I believe that this could be reduced greatly if all states were aware of the large numbers of deaths and accidents made from young teens drinking and driving and supported it in every state.

“Zero tolerance will save lives. It’s time to have zero tolerance for under-age drunk driving all across America, not just in some states,” stated from President Clinton. The Zero Tolerance Law states that, “… Anyone under the age of 21 years, who drives, operates, or has actual physical control of a vehicle, an off-highway vehicle, or a moped while consuming or after having consumed alcoholic liquor, shall have his or her driver’s license and/or privileges revoked for a period of 2 months for the first offense and not less than 6 months nor more than 12 months for each subsequent offense. If the underage person does not have a driver’s license and/or privileges, the person shall be fined $200 for the first offense and not less than $400 nor more than $1,000 for each subsequent offense.” The zero tolerance law became effective on November 1, 1996. It has been passed by 29 states and the District of Columbia to reduce alcohol-related fatalities further. According to the website alcohol, “there were 16,694 alcohol related fatalities in 2004- 39% of the total fatalities for the year.” A “drink” is either one shot of liquor, a five-ounce glass of wine or one beer, all of which contain the same amount of alcohol. At the .02 (BAC) level, people exhibit some loss of judgment, and begin to relax and feel good. Tests have shown that drivers at this level experience a decline in visual functions, affecting their ability to track a moving object, and experience a decline in the ability to perform two tasks at the same time. A recent study compared crashes in 12 states that enacted zero tolerance laws for young drivers to crashes in 12 nearby states without the zero tolerance laws. In the 12 zero tolerance states, single vehicle nighttime fatal crashes involving young drivers dropped 16 percent, while the other states rose one percent. Being a teenager myself, I can say that I know young drivers place a high value on their driver’s licenses, and the threat of license revocation has proved to be an effective sanction for this age group. One advantage is that the states that do not consider a .02 BAC or less for the drivers under the age of 21 that are caught driving while intoxicated are subject to the withholding of Federal-Aid Highway Funds that began in 1999. In order to comply with the federal law, states must apply zero tolerance laws to all persons under the age of 21; Set .02 BAC or less as the legal limit; establish .02 as a per se offense (without having to prove intoxication); provide for primary enforcement; and provide that license suspensions or revocations are authorized for any violation of the state zero tolerance law.

In every state, it is illegal to purchase alcohol and consume it if the person is less than 21 years of age. However, minors can drink alcohol, drive, and can get away with it if they are not legally intoxicated to the states regulations. A zero tolerance law would be a very important law for every state because it would punish any minor who has a blood alcohol reading when tested by the police, even if the minor only has what amounts to one drink. This is why I believe every state should support the zero tolerance law because it would help save many lives and punish the ones who do not abide by the rules.