Sentencing And Dispositions Of Youth DUI And Other Alcohol Offenses: A Guide For Judes And Prosecutors NHTSA People Saving People Logo, www.nhtsa.dot.gov
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I. INTRODUCTION

II. THE FACTS

III. THE LAWS

IV. THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

V. DISPOSITIONS AND SENTENCES

VI. MONITORING AND ENFORCEMENT

VII. RECORDING, SHARING, AND USING INFORMATION PERTAINING TO ALCOHOL OFFENSES AMONG YOUTH

VIII. ADMINISTRATIVE AND COMMUNITY RESPONSES TO UNDERAGE DRINKING AND DUI: THE ROLE OF THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM

IX. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR POLICY AND RESEARCH

X. REFERENCES

XI. RESOURCES

VIII. Administrative And Community Responses To Underage Drinking And DUI: The Role Of The Judicial System


This chapter provides an overview of the Nation's comprehensive effort to reduce underage drinking and DUI, and the role of the justice system within this broad context. The first part of this chapter focuses on the administrative control system and the importance of court cooperation with the States' administrative agencies. The second part of this chapter deals with the roles of community organizations in preventing underage drinking and DUI, the importance of linkages between the community and the court, and ways in which judges and prosecutors can become involved in all levels of community efforts. Finally, this chapter presents research findings on the effectiveness of environmental efforts to reduce underage drinking and DUI.


The Court as Part of a Comprehensive Safety System
The justice system is one component in a comprehensive effort to reduce underage drinking and DUI that also includes State administrative agencies and community organizations. These agencies and organizations complement and aid the courts by providing alternatives to traditional sanctions, reducing case backlogs, and preventing offenses. The activities and programs falling under each domain are shown in table 8-1. Areas of interaction between the systems are indicated by arrows. For example, the justice system often refers offenders to community service and victim restitution programs based in the community. In this way, community organizations are involved in providing accountability-based sanctions.

Together, the formal and informal programs represented in table 8-1 constitute a system that rests on a tacit compact: adults allow youth to drive (presenting higher risk for other drivers on the road, even when they are sober) as long as they agree not to drink. Thus, we license drivers at age 16, attempt to prevent liquor sales to persons under age 21, and impose sanctions for those who violate the law.

The courts (primarily juvenile or traffic court, but occasionally the civil or criminal court) interact with both the administrative driver control system and community-based activities. The State driver licensing agencies have record systems and administrative license revocation (ALR) authority that permit reasonable control of driving risk on the Nation's roads. Driver records provide the justice system with information required to recognize repeat offenders. State driver licensing agencies have authority over driver and vehicle licensing systems designed to remove high-risk drivers from the roads. While prosecutors and courts have authority over certain aspects of the driver control system, they may affect administrative operations negatively if they divert cases without administrative licensing sanctions or fail to report offenses and convictions. Community programs have increased pressures for more vigorous enforcement of drinking and driving laws and underage possession and sales laws, and for restitution and community service programs. Courts increasingly are sentencing offenders to attend victim impact panels sponsored by groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID). Thus, the three domains presented in table 8-1 work together and depend on each other to some extent, but emphasize different aspects of the same goals. The importance of cooperation among these domains is highlighted below.

Table 8-1
THE U.S. ALCOHOL SAFETY SYSTEM
The U.S. Alcohol Safety System Chart

This table presents a schematic model of the three elements of the cu community-based activities, the justice system, and the administrativ interacts with both the community consortiums working to reduce the a and the programs managed by the State driver licensing agencies, whic public by preventing driving by high-risk operators. The three goals accountability to the victim or community, and treatment or education elements that are outside the court. It is important that judges and of the overall State and community system to ensure that sanctioning of community efforts to reduce alcohol problems and State efforts to drivers.

The Relationship Between the Administrative Control System and the Justice System
The Role of Administrative Agencies

Through licensing and vehicle control, administrative agencies can remove potentially unsafe drivers from the road quickly and thus protect the public safety. This function, and the interaction between administrative agencies and the courts, is shown in table 8-1. State driver licensing agencies are responsible for maintaining a safe road system and ensuring that unqualified or dangerous drivers are not permitted to operate vehicles and put the general public at risk. This responsibility is reflected in the States' driver licensing laws and vehicle registration requirements. Use of the highways by qualified motorists and vehicles is ensured only through driver licensing tests and regulations, and through vehicle inspection systems. Detailed records of drivers' behavior and vehicles used on public highways also are maintained. The driver and vehicle record system is integrated with State and local police departments, which use the information from the system and enter information into the system.

Administrative agencies always have had significant authority to either approve or deny the use of public highways based on driver examinations and driving records through the use of a violation point system independent of the justice system. With the explosive growth of the Federal and local highway systems, and the number of drivers and vehicles using that system, there has been a trend to increase the authority of motor vehicle departments in both the licensing of drivers and the registration of vehicles.

Administrative license revocation procedures have survived various legal attacks. Through a line of cases, the Supreme Court has validated motor vehicle departments suspension procedures provided that an administrative hearing is offered to the driver. Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535 (1971); Dixon v. Love, 431 U.S. 105 (1977). In addition, double jeopardy concerns were answered by the Court in 1997, in a case that held the proper test to decide if the Double Jeopardy Clause is violated is whether a proceeding is civil or criminal in nature. Hudson v. United States, 522 U.S. 93 (1997). Since administrative license revocation proceedings are civil in nature, the sanctions are not criminally punitive for double jeopardy purposes. Consequently, most states currently have implied consent laws and administrative license suspension laws.

The authority of State motor vehicle departments to take administrative action is not limited to driver licensing, but also can include action against a vehicle registration or license plate suspension. Thus, States such as Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington have implemented laws that provide for suspension or cancellation of a vehicle's registration or the marking or confiscation of a vehicle license plate when the vehicle is found to be operated by an unlicenced driver.

The Courts and Administrative Control
Generally, the two systemsthe administrative system and the justice systemwork together well; however, harmonizing the two operations continues to produce significant challenges for both. For example, while traffic records are important to the justice system, there are procedures within the justice system that interfere with record keeping. For example, the records of juveniles are protected and may not be reported to a motor vehicle department, even for significant offenses, such as DUI. This presents a significant problem to motor vehicle departments, as accurate records are critical to their operations. In addition, conflicts between the administrative and the justice system result occasionally from poorly written legislation. In California, for example, a law mandated that the courts require installation of ignition interlocks for convicted second offenders in addition to the existing ALR program. Thus, judges are required to have offenders install ignition interlocks on their vehicles, but the offenders are not permitted by the motor vehicle department to drive.

Administrative Control Strategies
A number of administrative strategies, including those described below, currently are being employed to protect the public safety. As shown in table 8-1 and noted in chapter 5, some of the sanctions that can be ordered by the court also can be applied administratively.

Administrative License Revocation. The success of offenders in avoiding license revocation or suspension through the justice process led to the implementation of ALR laws, which mandate that police officers at the time of arrest seize a driver's license as an administrative license suspension or revocation on behalf of the State's driver licensing agency. These laws ensure that DUI offenders receive a license restriction within a relatively short period of time after their arrest, independent of their progress through the justice system. This action may be taken as a consequence of the driver refusing to submit to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test or having a BAC that exceeds the legal limit (including zero tolerance limits in most States that have adopted these laws). When a police officer seizes a driver's license, he or she generally gives the driver a temporary driving permit and an official notice of license suspension to become effective within a certain time period. The suspension notice also provides information on recourses available to the offender, such as an administrative hearing or judicial review. An administrative license action is independent of any license action taken by the judge. Placing responsibility for the license suspension on the motor vehicle department reduces the burden of the court system in this area. In states with ALR statutes, it is no longer efficient for the offender to attempt to delay adjudication and no longer possible to avoid license suspension by plea bargains involving other sanctions.

ALR laws have been found to reduce DUI recidivism in the general driving population (Stewart et al. 1989) and to reduce alcohol-related fatal crashes among those both over and under 21 (Lacey et al. 1984; Zador et al. 1988; Klein 1989).

ALR is probably the most significant administrative control strategy relative to the adjudication of impaired driving cases. Removing license suspension from the adjudication process provides an opportunity to improve the efficiency of court operations and furthers the court's objectives. Both administrative agencies and the courts have a responsibility to protect the public safety. The court also is responsible for moving DUI offenders into education or treatment programs. Conceptually, administrative actions that prevent driving and court-ordered sanctions that promote treatment offer the most promise to reduce court caseloads, protect the public, and provide education or treatment as needed.

Zero tolerance law violations. Zero tolerance offenses are adjudicated through the court system in most States. In those States with ALR laws, apprehension triggers license suspension or revocation. In some States, California being the primary example, zero tolerance is only an administrative offense that results in a 1-year license suspension imposed within 30 days of apprehension by the motor vehicle department. In California, a zero tolerance violation is not a criminal offense and does not result in a criminal charge or court appearance, although, of course, there is an administrative hearing by the department of motor vehicles. Because the objective of this law is to deter young people from drinking and driving without criminalizing their behavior, it is likely that current zero tolerance laws gradually will be amended to involve only administrative sanctions. Therefore, fewer of these cases will be adjudicated in the courts.

Use and lose laws. Use and lose laws refer to State legislation that revokes driving privileges of underage youth who attempt to purchase alcohol using false identification. The adjudication of these attempt-to-purchase or, in some cases, possession laws occurs within the justice system. When the offense is reported to the motor vehicle department, that department takes action under its authority to suspend the license. Clearly, failure of the prosecutor to pursue charges, or failure of the courts to notify the motor vehicle department, reduces the department's ability to enforce the legislation.

Vehicle-related sanctions. As discussed in Chapter 5, vehicle-related sanctions have been developed in response to the large number of suspended drivers who continue to drive. These actions may be ordered by the court or applied administratively, depending on the State statutes.

Alcohol ignition interlocks. The ignition interlock is a technological attempt to keep a driver from driving after drinking, without requiring that he or she give up driving entirely. Considerable data have accumulated on these devices, and it appears that they achieve this end (Voas et al. 1997b; Beirness et al. 1997). Where the administrative capability to ensure that interlocks are installed on the vehicle and are maintained in good operating order is available, participation in such programs generally costs the offender about $60 a month. The authority to impose interlock programs varies from State to State. The courts have the lead role and are authorized to require the installation of interlocks at the time of sentencing in some States, whereas in other States, the motor vehicle department has the lead role and the authority to require interlock installation after a period of hard suspension and before the licensing privilege is restored.

Vehicle plate and registration sanctions. Some States have allowed a vehicle's registration to be canceled if the driver is caught driving without a valid license. To make the registration cancellation effective, either the plate is removed from the vehicle (as in Minnesota) or a sticker was placed on the license plate (as in Washington and Oregon). It should be noted that the laws in Washington and Oregon were not permanent and have been allowed to expire.

Vehicle impoundment/immobilization. Temporary vehicle immobilization and impoundment have been shown to be effective in reducing DUI recidivism among repeat adult DUI offenders in States such as Ohio and California, and in the Province of Manitoba in Canada (DeYoung 1997; Voas et al. in press). This action may be a local administrative or civil action, or an adjunct to the court process, but it usually is independent of the ultimate outcome of the court process itself. It generally is dependent upon seizing the vehicle at the time of the arrest and holding it for the period provided by law.

Vehicle forfeiture. Asset forfeiture has become a major feature of the enforcement of drug trafficking laws. Seizures under civil forfeiture laws to control high-risk drivers also are increasing. In Portland, Oregon, a local ordinance providing for the seizure of vehicles of "johns" was extended to include vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers within the category of nuisance vehicles, thus allowing the city to seize the cars of offenders who were suspended as a result of a DUI conviction. A similar process is employed in California.

Point systems. For some years, nearly all States have had legislation that permits the motor vehicle department to suspend the license of an individual who accumulates a number of moving traffic violations. The number of violations that triggers suspension depends upon their nature and seriousness. Failure to report such violations to the motor vehicle department impinges on their ability to identify high-risk drivers. Point systems also may provide the State with an opportunity to motivate high-risk drivers to participate in driver education programs in order to avoid suspension.

Community Initiatives
While the administrative control system seeks to protect the public from unsafe drivers, community-based organizations seek to prevent underage drinking and DUI. Community organizations throughout the Nation plan and implement prevention programs involving schools, law enforcement, media, alcohol retailers, and others. These organizations use media advocacy to garner support for law enforcement, conduct education campaigns targeting youth and their parents, and implement other strategies to restrict the availability of alcohol to youth while providing social alternatives that do not involve drinking. Some of the strategies described below have been found effective when implemented and systematically evaluated as part of a community-wide approach in randomized controlled community trials (Perry et al. 1993; Williams et al.1995; Hingson et al. 1996b; NIAAA 1996b; Perry et al. 1996; Toomey et al. 1996; Grube 1997; Holder and Reynolds 1997; Holder et al. 1997a, 1997b; Voas 1997; Voas et al. 1997a; Wagenaar et al. 1998).

Media Advocacy
A critical problem for community organizations is focusing public attention on impaired driving. Media advocacy is a technique by which community groups attempt to attract press coverage of their efforts by contacting the media, issuing press releases and holding press conferences. Community groups attempt to mobilize public support behind the police and courts to assure that city, county, and State governments provide more funding for drinking-driving enforcement. They also push for local police departments to dedicate greater resources to the enforcement of underage drinking laws and impaired driving (Holder 1997a; Voas 1997).

In-School Programs
School-based prevention programs may be part of community-wide efforts to prevent alcohol and other drug use. Research on the effect of these programs has been mixed. Early programs showed little evidence of success (Schaps et al. 1981), but over time, as greater scientific rigor was applied to the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs, greater effectiveness has been demonstrated for certain types of programs (Hansen 1992). These programs may seek to strengthen certain skills (e.g., communication skills, ability to resist peer pressure) and correct youth's often erroneous beliefs about the prevalence and acceptability of drinking. Some programs have proven effective in changing alcohol-related beliefs and resistance skills, and a few have resulted in small but significant delays in the onset of drinking (Botvin et al. 1984; Hansen et al. 1988a, 1988b; Pentz et al. 1989; Shope et al. 1992, 1997). For example, Project Northland, an ongoing school- and community-based intervention being conducted in Minnesota, is designed to delay, prevent, and reduce alcohol use and related problems among underage youth. It includes social-behavioral curricula, peer leadership, parental involvement and education, and community-wide task force activities (Perry et al. 1993; Williams et al. 1995). The first three years of the intervention, conducted in grades six through eight, resulted in a significantly lower prevalence of monthly and weekly alcohol use among students in intervention communities compared with controls. These beneficial effects were notable particularly among students who had not yet begun experimenting with alcohol when the program began (Perry et al. 1996).

Parental Involvement in Prevention
Research suggests that parents often underestimate their children's drinking behavior and are not involved adequately in preventing their children from drinking (Beck et al. 1987, 1995). According to surveys of high school students, parents could reduce teenagers' drinking more effectively by supervising parties, keeping closer control over alcohol kept at home, asking youth about drinking, and enforcing rules about drinking and driving (Atkin and Atkin 1986).

Court Licensing Ceremonies
To help new young drivers in Virginia learn about the legal responsibilities that accompany the privilege of having a driver's license, all license applicants under the age of 18 must appear with a parent or guardian at a court licensing ceremony to receive their driver's license. The ceremony is conducted by the judge of the juvenile and domestic relations court district in which the juvenile lives. Each ceremony is usually attended by 75–100 juveniles and their parents or guardians. Each judge has discretion in the design of the ceremony. These ceremonies serve to educate juveniles and parents about the risks involved in underage drinking and impaired driving and the legal consequences of violating the State's "use and lose" law and other laws related to underage drinking and impaired driving. Police officers may appear at these ceremonies as guest speakers to discuss the consequences of drinking and driving. Before receiving his or her child's license, a parent must pledge that he or she will not give the license to the child until they have discussed a strategy for handling potential drinking and driving situations. This action makes the parent an active participant in the process and a partner with the court. Community coalitions have successfully worked with the juvenile courts in Virginia to develop and implement such a program. An example of such a coalition/court collaborative effort is "Children at Risk Today" (CART) in Chesterfield County, Virginia (Police Executive Research Forum, in press). This strategy has not been evaluated.

Enhanced Enforcement
Some community consortiums established with the objective of reducing underage drinking have brought pressure on the police to increase sting operations in which police cadets or officers who appear to be underage attempt to purchase alcohol at convenience outlets. Because these cases involve adult proprietors and clerks, they rarely would come before a juvenile or traffic court. Sting operations are popular with community groups because they place pressure on the adult providers, rather than the underage drinkers. Alternatively, an unevaluated program known as "Cops in Shops" seeks to enforce laws against attempts to purchase and/or possess alcohol by having a police officer pose as a clerk in a convenience store and apprehend underage individuals attempting to purchase alcohol without identification or with false identification. Such offenders may be fined by the court and also may lose their driver's license.

Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) or Server Training
RBS and server training programs educate salespersons in retail alcohol outlets and alcohol servers in restaurants and bars about how to avoid selling alcohol illegally to customers who are under 21 and to people who are intoxicated. Training may include information about how to detect false identification, how to spot purchases by adults who intend to pass the alcohol on to underage youth, and how to handle patrons who become belligerent when they are refused service. One study that evaluated the effect of a combination of increased enforcement, RBS training, and media advocacy found that, in combination, these efforts reduced retail sales of alcohol to underage youth. However, there was no evidence that RBS alone had an effect (Grube 1997).

Alternative Nonalcoholic Social Events
Community organizations recognize that, if young people are to be asked to forgo alcohol, a feature of most adult social activities, it is essential that the community support nonalcoholic events for youth. "Sober graduation" programs are an example of such activities.

Community Programs At Work
Government organizations and private funding agencies have supported the development of community coalitions to bring about policy changes and support efforts to enforce underage drinking laws and zero tolerance laws. Join Together, a nonprofit organization funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, maintains a list of over 1,000 such community organizations. "Drawing the Line on Under 21 Alcohol Use," in Montgomery County, MD, is an example of one such community coalition.

"Drawing The Line On Under 21 Alcohol Use," Montgomery County, Md

Drawing the Line on Under 21 Alcohol Use is a multifaceted program designed to reduce underage drinking in Montgomery County, MD. The program conducts public education about the effects of underage drinking by holding press conferences, making presentations at schools and meetings of community organizations, and publishing pamphlets for the public. Drawing the Line also sponsors alcohol-free events for county residents who are under 21, including after-prom and after-game parties and dances. In addition, the program supports law enforcement efforts related to underage alcohol use by providing training for police, sponsoring a party hotline, and supporting the use of sobriety check-points and party patrols. Through program efforts, police departments in the county have improved their cooperation with one another. A 1995 evaluation of the program found that Drawing the Line had reached over 11,200 community members through its education efforts, that more than 22,350 underage youth participated in alcohol-free activities sponsored by the program, and that the number of underage alcohol-related citations had increased, demonstrating greater emphasis on this area of law enforcement (Gold et al. 1995). For more information see Resources list.

The Relationship Between Judges, Prosecutors, and Community Organizations
In addition to their prevention activities on national, State, and local levels, community organizations also are involved in programs to help the victims of alcohol-related offenses. Many communities have organizations that manage accountability-based sanctions ordered by the court.

Community Service Providers
Many communities have a private, nonprofit group that supervises individuals assigned by the court to community service. These organizations normally support themselves from offender fees and, to a lesser extent, from payments from the organizations that receive services. Program provider costs include advertising to attract firms willing to use community service offenders, insurance to cover injury to workers or damage to employers, and administrative costs (NHTSA 1985). Generally, evaluation of these programs has tended to demonstrate that the value of services delivered to the community is several times that of the administrative costs (NHTSA 1985, 1986a). Since these administrative costs are frequently borne by the offender, the community tends to receive a useful benefit for which the court can take credit.

Victim Advocates
Victim advocates, such as members of MADD, frequently have come into conflict with the courts when judges and prosecutors have been viewed as not taking drinking and driving offenses seriously enough and being too lenient in their sentencing of DUI offenders. The court needs to be cognizant of the significance for victims of the conviction of the offender. Most States now provide that victims injured by a drinking driver can receive compensation from the State criminal compensation fund. However, this generally is true only if the driver who caused the injuries is convicted of impaired driving. Plea bargains and diversion programs that result in the offender avoiding a DUI conviction may result in loss of compensation for the victim. Prosecutors can play an important role in explaining the process of the criminal justice system to victims, keeping victims informed at all stages of this process, and ensuring that their views are presented to the court. Victims also frequently have considerable difficulty understanding the judicial process and feel that they and their needs are being ignored by the court. While exchanges between judges, prosecutors, and victims sometimes can be quite heated, it generally is useful for a judge and prosecutor to meet with the MADD organization to clarify court procedures and show an interest in victims' concerns. The judge and prosecutor often can obtain considerable support from MADD, particularly where he or she makes use of the victim impact panels in dealing with drinking-driving offenders.

Judges' and Prosecutors' Interaction with Community Organizations
Judges and prosecutors can play important roles in all levels of community action. Prosecutors can work with advocacy groups to influence alcohol-related legislation. Judges and prosecutors can work with community-level organizations to garner public support for law enforcement, gain the attention of youth in educational settings, and involve parents in efforts to prevent underage alcohol offenses. Judges and prosecutors also can work with community organizations involved in managing community service programs and other programs to ensure offender accountability.

The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) has stated that "coupled with effective enforcement and protection efforts, crime prevention initiatives are important and necessary" (NDAA 1996). As respected members of the community, judges and prosecutors can raise community awareness and concern about the risks involved in underage drinking. Judges and prosecutors can consider speaking at forums such as schools, PTA meetings, meetings of MADD and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), and at other forums about laws related to underage drinking and impaired driving, the risks involved in committing these offenses, and the justice system's response to these offenses. Judges and prosecutors can speak to parents about youth drinking and the situations in which drinking can occur, and parents' potential ability to help prevent their children's drinking (Beck and Lockhart 1992).

Community organizations dedicated to reducing underage drinking, and drinking and driving provide judges and prosecutors with the opportunity to participate in nonpartisan programs directed at protecting both youth and the general public. Research on community action has demonstrated the importance of gaining public attention for health problems that a community group is attempting to promote (Holder et al. 1997a). In communities that do not have traffic safety advocacy organizations, judges and prosecutors can assist in such a group's formation by fostering linkages with other community leaders.

Judges and prosecutors can assist community organizations in attracting press attention and in providing a credible voice for communicating with the public. They can help community coalitions dramatize the risks involved in underage drinking and DUI. Judges and prosecutors who participate in these efforts are likely to become principal spokespersons and to have a good opportunity to frequently come before the public on a topic with which most adults agree.

Concerns about judicial neutrality should not interfere with a judge's community outreach activity, unless the activity involves advocating a specific policy. The American Bar Association's Canons of Judicial Conduct encourages judicial involvement in community prevention activities, including community task forces. Such activity not only advances public education and improves the judicial process, it also enhances public confidence in and respect for the judicial system (McConville 1997).

Environmental Efforts To Reduce Underage Drinking and DUI: Research Findings
Efforts to reduce underage drinking and DUI go beyond the activities of community programs, administrative agencies, and the courts. Environmental efforts (those efforts aimed at modifying the availability of alcohol) to reduce underage drinking and DUI include a variety of laws, policies, and practices, many of which have been evaluated by research. To inform judges and prosecutors about research findings on the effectiveness of environmental efforts, brief descriptions of these laws, policies, and practices and the relevant findings are presented below.

Laws, Policies, and Practices to Reduce Underage Persons' Access to Alcohol

Alcohol taxes. Higher taxes on beer have been associated with reductions in the levels and frequency of drinking and heavy drinking among youth and lower traffic crash fatality rates, especially among young drivers (Grossman et al. 1987; Saffer and Grossman 1987; Coate and Grossman 1988; NIAAA 1996b).

Alcohol beverage control systems. Laws regulating who can sell alcoholic beverages and when they can be sold vary from State to State, ranging from State monopolies to privatized license systems. In addition, a State may have a monopoly system for one type of alcoholic beverage (e.g., distilled spirits) and a license system for others (e.g., wine and beer) at either the wholesale level, the retail level, or both. The privatization of alcohol sales typically results in an increased number of outlets, longer sale hours, and increased marketing (Wagenaar and Holder 1991), which therefore may increase the availability of alcohol to youth. One study of the effects of privatizing wine sales in five States found that sales increased in each State, and that increases ranged from 15 to 150 percent (Wagenaar and Holder 1995).

Zoning laws. Increased density of alcohol retail outlets has been associated with increased alcohol sales (Gruenewald et al. 1993) and increased motor vehicle mortality (Dull and Giacopassi 1988). Local zoning laws can restrict the density of alcohol retail outlets, as well as their hours of sale.

The following laws may be promising, but their effectiveness for reducing underage access to alcohol has not been evaluated:

  • Keg registration laws. These laws require establishments that sell alcoholic beverages in kegs to register the names and addresses of the individual who purchases the kegs. Each keg must be identified with a unique tamper-proof identification number, allowing the purchaser to be identified if the keg is later found to be a source of alcohol for underage drinkers (Sidwell 1997).
  • Alcoholic beverage control (ABC) at retail establishments. It is generally a criminal offense for the owners or employees of establishments that sell alcoholic beverages to sell such beverages either to persons under 21 years old or to intoxicated persons. Individuals convicted of violating these prohibitions may be punished by either a jail sentence, a fine or both. In addition, the business where the violation occurred may have its license to sell alcoholic beverages either suspended or revoked. Massachusetts law (MA G.L. ch. 90 §24 J) requires that judges ask defendants adjudicated or convicted of drunk driving where they were last served. If they report a licensed establishment, the name of the establishment is sent to both State and local liquor licensing control agencies. Multiple citations have suggested irresponsible service of alcohol.
  • Distinctive licenses for drivers under age 21. The use of a unique license design for drivers under age 21 may help combat the use of false IDs and make it easier for alcohol sellers to determine quickly if a person is 21. The under-21 license may include two pictures or a profile picture, or a different color background may be used for the photograph. Some States also place holograms on all new licenses, making them more difficult to alter or replicate (NHTSA 1991).
  • SmartCard Licenses. NHTSA is evaluating the effectiveness of a program that requires all youthful-appearing buyers to verify their age with an electronically-coded driver's license in York Co., Pennsylvania. All retail outlets and service establishments have been equipped with a special device to read the encoded cards. (Beirness, 1997).

Laws Pertaining To Alcohol Possession And Use In Vehicles
Open container laws.
These laws make it a criminal offense for a person to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle. These laws usually cover any person riding in the passenger compartment of the vehicle. "Open container" includes any open receptacle that is capable of holding an alcoholic beverage. This could include bottles, cans, cups, glasses, and other containers.

Anti-consumption laws. These laws make it a criminal offense for a person to consume alcoholic beverages in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle. In many States, this law applies only to drivers.

Encouraging Safe Driving By Youth
Because a driver's license is especially prized by youth, some prevention strategies, such as those described below, are designed to use the driving privilege as motivation for youth to drive safely.

Graduated licensing. It always has been recognized that certain minimum skills are required to operate a vehicle on the public highway. Research has demonstrated that in addition to basic driving skills, driving experience is significant in producing a safe driver. Currently, safety groups are organizing a major national campaign to have States enact graduated licensing programs that would introduce novice drivers step by step into the traffic stream, which would limit their exposure to risk while they are acquiring experience. Thus, the novice driver would begin by operating a vehicle only while an adult licensed driver is present and move on to driving on his or her own during the daytime until sufficient experience is gained to drive at night. Traffic infractions would extend the period of limited driving privilege or would completely suspend the driving privilege. Additional restrictions may be placed in the statutory system, such as mandatory seat belt use for all occupants, and limits on the number and age of passengers. Violations of such restrictions may be enforced through administrative action or by the court. Evaluations of graduated licensing programs in Maryland, Oregon, and California have shown reductions in crash rates and traffic violations among young drivers (NHTSA 1998b).

A nighttime driving curfew is a key component of graduated licensing. Nighttime driving is riskier than daytime driving for a number of reasons, including the greater likelihood of alcohol use. Nighttime driving curfews generally prohibit nighttime driving by new young drivers, but allow exceptions for young drivers who are accompanied by a parent and those who need to drive to or from school or work at night. Nighttime driving restrictions have been found to be effective in reducing crashes both overall and specifically during curfew hours (Preusser et al. 1984; Ferguson et al. 1996).

Delayed licensure. Research indicates that delaying the age of licensure is associated with reduced crash rates among young drivers (Leaf et al. 1994).