Springtime brings merriment and revelry, particularly for teenagers and young adults. End-of-school-year celebrations such as graduation recognize student accomplishments, while annual social events such as prom mark the passing of time and traditions. Despite the legal prohibitions, many teenagers incorporate alcohol into these celebrations.
Some parents have no objections to their teenagers drinking, believing it to be as much a part of the rituals as the events themselves. Others are firmly opposed to teenage drinking and make these wishes clear. Ultimately though, parents of teenagers may not have much control over these decisions; teenagers are faced with many choices in day-to-day life and must make many of them independently.
However, parents can take actions to ensure that their teenagers are well-informed when making important decisions, such as those related to drinking and driving. By taking proper actions, parents can limit potential liability and protect their teenagers.
Don't Enable Teenage Drinking by Providing Alcohol or Hosting Parties
For those parents who recognize that their teenagers are likely to drink regardless of whether or not they approve, hosting a party may seem the sensible way to ensure that their children are safe. Parents may believe that they can protect their teenagers by providing a controlled environment and adult supervision. However, under Pennsylvania law, it is illegal for any person to give any alcoholic beverage to a minor -- and parents may face both criminal and civil consequences for such actions.
For example, in a tragic case in Plainfield Township, three teenagers were killed in a drunk driving accident. The parent who allowed the teenagers to consume alcohol was sentenced for three counts of involuntary manslaughter, with penalties including jail time.
Although criminal liability is relatively uncommon, civil liability is more well-established. Under the social host liability laws in Pennsylvania, a person over the age of 21 who "knowingly serves or furnishes alcohol" to minors violates the general duty to not place others at a foreseeable risk of harm.
Accordingly, a person serving alcohol to minors can be held accountable for the resulting harms. If a parent provides alcohol to someone under the age of 21, and the underage drinker is involved in a car accident or takes other actions resulting in harm, the parent may be financially responsible for the consequences.
Talk to Teenagers About Drinking and Driving
Although it is important not to enable drinking, not providing alcohol is not enough. If determined to obtain alcohol, most teenagers will be able to find it. To protect children, parents must speak openly and honestly about drunk driving. These conversations allow parents to establish expectations related to driving and to highlight the importance of driving safely. More importantly, they allow parents to outline consequences, including those that reach beyond a parent's control.
Drunk driving is a criminal offense. For people under the age of 21, driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of more than .02 can result in a DUI. Even a first time conviction for DUI can have serious consequences, including fees and fines, mandatory driving classes and a driver's license suspension. Additionally, many colleges and universities require students to report any criminal convictions. A conviction may affect a student's eligibility for financial aid or admission to particular programs.
Furthermore, an accident arising from driving while intoxicated can have life-altering consequences. Drunk driving accidents often involve high-speed, head-on collisions and can result in serious injuries or even death. A child involved in a drunk driving accident will have to live with these consequences forever.
Rebellious teenagers may shrug off threats of parentally-imposed sanctions, but they may treat external penalties more seriously. However, without careful guidance from involved parents, a teenager may never consider these potential consequences. Teenagers often feel invincible and are blinded by the mistaken belief that nothing terrible can happen. A single conversation may not prevent a teenager from drinking, but ongoing conversations can help to ensure that teenagers are more aware of the risks of drinking and driving and better prepared to make informed decisions with these consequences in mind.
At the law office of Hal Waldman & Associates, we provide full-service counsel and representation to personal injury victims in the Pittsburgh area. Your drunk driving accident matters to us. We care. We are on your side. Call or e-mail Hal Waldman & Associates to schedule a cost-free, obligation-free case evaluation and consultation regarding your legal matter. http://www.waldmaninc.com/