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Underage Drinking and Parental Consequences


Underage Drinking

Alcohol use by persons under age 21 years is a major public health problem. Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs, and is responsible for more than 4,300 annual deaths among underage youth. Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks. On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers. In 2010, there were approximately 189,000 emergency room visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.


Drinking Levels among Youth

The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past 30 days

  • 35% drank some amount of alcohol.

  • 21% binge drank.

  • 10% drove after drinking alcohol.

  • 22% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

Other national surveys

  • In 2012 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 24% of youth aged 12 to 20 years drink alcohol and 15% reported binge drinking.

  • In 2013, the Monitoring the Future Survey reported that 28% of 8th graders and 68% of 12th graders had tried alcohol, and 10% of 8th graders and 39% of 12th graders drank during the past month.

(Statistics from the CDC)


2012 Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatality Data in Ohio

Total Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities                          385

Under 21 Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities                    39


2012 Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities per 100,000 Population

Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities per 100K population                           3.3

Under 21 Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities per 100K population             1.2


2002-2012 % Change in Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities per 100K Pop

10-year Change in Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities per 100K pop                               -18.7

10-year Change in Under 21 Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities per 100K pop                 -32.2


Percent of Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities Involving high BAC drivers (.15+)*

BAC=.15 +                                           77.4


Percent of Drivers in Fatal Crashes Involving Repeat Offenders

BAC .08-.14                                          19.4

BAC .15+                                             80.6


2011 and 2012 12-20 Year Old Alcohol Consumption

Past Month Alcohol Consumption             26.4

Binge Drinking in Past 30-days                17.2


2016 Arrest Data

Under 18: Driving under the influence      62

Total: Driving under the influence            35629

Under 18: Liquor laws                            1211

Total: Liquor laws                                  8254

Under 18: Drunkenness                          31

Total: Drunkenness                                2986



Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatality Data Source: NHTSA/FARS, 12/13

*Among drivers with a known alcohol test result
*Youth Consumption Data Source: SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2011 and 2012
*Arrest Data Source: 2012 FBI Uniform Crime Report (Tables 38 and 69)
**Drunkenness is not considered a crime in some states; therefore, the figures may vary widely from state to state
*Limited, incomplete, or no data were reported by the Alabama, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, and New York in the 2012 Uniform Crime Report. Data should be used with caution and should not be compared to other states or previous year data.
Note: Because the number of agencies submitting arrest data varies from year to year, users are cautioned about making direct comparisons between 2012 arrest totals and those published in previous years' editions of Crime in the United States. Further, arrest figures may vary widely from state to state because some Part II crimes of the Uniform Crime Report are not considered crimes in some states.



What Is Underage Drinking?

In many states, the age of majority (when a person becomes an adult) is at 18 years old. However, drinking laws don’t allow a person to lawfully consume alcohol until they are 21 years old. Thus, underage drinking can occur even if a person is already legally considered an adult.

Underage drinking is considered a major problem in the U.S., and is linked with several health concerns and safe driving concerns. Thus, many underage drinking laws also require schools and educational organizations to institute informational courses on the dangers of underage drinking.

In some states, underage drinking is allowed, so long as it occurs under a parent’s supervision, and at their own home. However, some states hold parents liable if they or their child violates underage drinking provisions, and public underage drinking is never allowed.


What Are Some Consequences of Underage Drinking?

The consequences of underage drinking can often be severe. While most juvenile laws aim at rehabilitating rather than punishing minors, underage drinking is still strictly punished in comparison to other juvenile crimes.

Some penalties for underage drinking may include:

  • Criminal fines

  • Mandatory community service

  • Required counseling classes

  • In some cases, possible jail time

  • Suspension of driver’s license privileges


In addition, underage drinking can also have negative consequences in other areas of the person’s life, such as driver’s insurance policies. Depending on school policies, underage drinking can also have negative effects in some areas of school life, such as the person’s ability to participate in sports, certain ceremonies, or denied college scholarships.


Can Parents Be Held Liable for Their Child’s Underage Drinking?

This depends- as mentioned, some states actually allow underage drinking if it occurs under a parent’s supervision, within the boundaries of their own home.

However, many states impose criminal charges on adults who engage in serving or selling alcohol to minors. Also, an adult can be charged with a crime if they knowingly allow minors to consume alcohol while on their property. Even worse, if the minor is hurt or injured as a result of drinking at the adult’s home, the responsible adult(s) may face criminal or civil charges.

Lastly, some jurisdictions are so strict that they impose penalties on adults if underage drinking occurs at their house, even if the parent isn’t home or aware that there is underage drinking going on.

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