Youth Impaired Driving Manual for Sheriffs DOT HS - 809214
BACKGROUND table of contentshomeNHTSA
Background
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Underage drinking is complex, national in scope, and a serious problem. It continues without any appreciable decline even though all states have set 21 as the legal drinking age and have zero tolerance laws. Recent data collected reveal that 87 percent of high school students have used alcoholic beverages, while binge drinking continues to be a major concern on most college campuses. Underage drinking is attributed to many sources- peers, media, home and school. To effectively reduce the problem, law enforcement agencies must support each other and work to find meaningful solutions.

In the public safety arena, motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of youth between 15-20 years of age. In fact, youths between 15 and 20 are killed in traffic crashes at twice the rate of the general driving population, and alcohol is involved in over 35 percent of these crashes.

Faced with the dramatic and deadly problem of underage drinking and impaired driving, law enforcement executives and community leaders are struggling to develop a solution. Stories with headlines that say “TRAGIC,” or quotes from family and relatives like “DEVASTATING,” and “SENSELESS,” mystify veteran deputies and officers. They can only shake their heads in disbelief as they investigate yet another crash scene where a young person, under the influence of alcohol, has died. Then this official must make “notification” to parents, telling them that their child was killed or injured.

Scenarios like this prompted NHTSA to partner with the National Sheriffs’ Association and nine county sheriff offices, within two states, to develop a compendium of countermeasures that work. Each of the selected jurisdictions agreed to expand their approach toward combating youth impaired driving and incorporate different strategies. Their experiences are detailed herein.

Ultimately, you, the residing law enforcement official, must decide what to do to prevent youth impaired driving. This publication is designed to offer suggestions and recommendations for beginning or expanding involvement. Some programs apply to full service agencies with dedicated traffic divisions and others offer practical suggestions that can be implemented by small agencies with little or no traffic enforcement function. Regardless of your current level of participation, the measures can make a difference and hopefully, save lives.