Teen drunk driving sparks social hosting laws
Parents who try to do everything for their children don't necessarily help them, but hurt them. Take the fact that many parents are providing alcohol to their children who are under drinking age. Such children then can hurt themselves and others, particularly while driving. In fact, On Jan. 24, 2009, a 16-year-old boy in Georgia died upon crashing his car into an oncoming vehicle after reportedly being served alcohol by a friend's mother.
That woman, Kecia Evangela Whitfield, has been charged with reckless conduct and furnishing alcohol to a minor. If convicted, she could receive a jail sentence of up to one year.
How widespread is this problem? In a recent study, the American Medical Association found that about a third of teen-agers said it was easy to get alcohol from their own parents, and even more teens -- about 40 per cent -- said alcohol was easy to obtain from a friend's parents. Parents thus are enabling underage teens to become intoxicated and potentially cause injuries and damages.
Social hosting make parents liable for intoxication
Giving alcohol to your child is legal in at least 10 states, including Minnesota, New Mexico, Virginia and Georgia, where Garrett Reed, a star football player, died in a collision after reportedly being served alcohol by Whitfield. But in no state is it legal for an adult to give alcohol to someone else's child, as Whitfield is charged.
In response to the epidemic of teen drinking and "binge" drinking, some states are enacting "social hosting" laws, establishing fines against parents whose homes are used for teen drinking parties, whether the parents were aware of the incident or not. Almost half of states have such laws, which can fine parents thousands of dollars for each offense. No city, county or other government entity in Georgia has such a "social hosting" law. Whitfield is charged with a civil misdemeanor.
In some ways social hosting laws are akin to so-called "dram shop" laws, which hold a restaurant, bar or tavern liable if it serves excessive alcohol to a person who then causes injury in an accident or violent incident, often a car accident. The key difference is that social hosting laws apply to private individuals who serve alcohol without charge in a social setting.
But in either case, liability is placed on those who provide the alcohol which can lead to serious harm such as a car accident via drunk driving
. Thanks to such laws, after a drunk driving accident it's not the driver alone who's accountable, but also the person or persons who served the alcohol which led to the accident.
Parents jailed for social hosting violations
In the case of a bar or restaurant, that establishment's motivation is simply trying to make money. But it must refuse a customer's money at some point when that patron's drinking becomes excessive. In the case of parents who provide alcohol to underage teens, the tendency to provide alcohol may involve a "cool" factor which prompts parents to be accommodating in order to be well liked by their children or other people's kids.
In either case, providing such alcohol not only is irresponsible but increasingly is becoming illegal. Drunk driving is a serious offense which costs Americans many millions of dollars in deaths, injuries and property damage each year. In fact, more than a fourth of the nation's roughly 40,000 traffic fatalities per year are attributable to drunk drivers. And a car accident is the leading cause of death in young people.
Is that worth being perceived as "cool" or providing a teen with a rite of passage? Not when it leads to a horrifying accident -- followed by a jail sentence.
According to CNN, a Massachusetts woman was recently sent to jail after serving alcohol to underage kids in her home, after which one of them died as a drunk driver. And in Virginia, two parents both served time in jail after providing alcohol to minors at their 16-year-old son's birthday party.
Texas, Oklahoma hold parents liable for teens' alcohol
In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond in 2007 became the state's first municipality to enact social hosting laws in an effort to curtail teen drinking. Over the next year, Edmond police made 71 social hosting arrests. Since then, another 50 cities and towns in Oklahoma have passed social hosting ordinances.
Texas courts have held that social hosts are responsible for intoxicated minors' injuries which were suffered after they received alcohol at the host's home or at a party under the host's supervision. Some states have failed to take action so far.
The bottom line is that thousands are being slaughtered by drunk drivers on America's roads and highways, and any law, action or campaign which can curtail this carnage must be considered.
Until then, if you or loved ones have been harmed by a drunk driver in a car accident or auto accident or by any other means, alert a personal injury attorney
with Jim S. Adler & Associates. Submit the free case review form on this page, and launch your recovery from a tragedy which should not have happened.
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