Published: April 13, 2005
Don’t drink and drive.
These words are well-known to all drivers, but especially underage drivers. Obvious consequences aside, some may not realize what the minimum punishment for a Driving Under the Influence arrest could be.
Young people in particular may be at risk. While youth are taught that they are not supposed to drive while under the influence during driving school, they may be unaware of the laws and what they mean in context.
The law states that to be guilty of a DUI, blood alcohol levels must be at .08, but anyone under the age of 21 is at risk at .02, a lower level than some underage drinkers understand.
“I’ve been well aware of my friends being over the limit when driving. Hell, I’ve tried to stop them. It’s hard to make someone give up the keys though, when they protest that they are fine, and won’t listen to reason,” UWF student Adam Syfrett said.
At .02, a person has consumed only an average of a couple drinks. Many people say before getting behind the wheel, “I’ve only had a few drinks, I’ll be fine.” This is not the case. By this point, impairment begins, moods are intensified and the alcohol begins affecting the superior membranes of the cerebrum, affecting decision-making.
Some younger drivers may be unaware of this until they are actually involved in a DUI incident.
“I really had no idea about the underage violation until one of my good friends had to go through it. It really has made me reevaluate my behavior,” student Jesse Summerville said.
For .02 violations, the usual punishment is the suspension of the driver’s license for six months. But if the driver refuses to submit to the breath test, the license is suspended for a year.
In the case of suspension, the license remains valid for 10 days. After those days are up, the punishment is one month of no driving. During this month, the guilty driver needs to arrange an appointment with a DUI program either in Pensacola or Milton.
In Milton, it’s held at the Lakeview Center, where drivers sign up for a $205 DUI class.
In Pensacola, one may choose to take the class in the span of four days, unlike in Milton, where drivers complete the course in two days over a weekend. The extensive 12-hour program goes over the importance of not drinking and driving at all. Several films of victims killed by drunk drivers are shown, specifically pointing out adolescents engaging in excessive drinking.
After the completion of the program, the driver goes through an evaluation process. The evaluation is another appointment that must be scheduled while signing up for the DUI class or after its completion. No driving is permitted while in the evaluation process.
The evaluation ordinarily takes place after the class, and a certificate is awarded afterward. The evaluation process is composed of a series of questions. The person rates each question with the appropriate response. During the evaluation, a counselor looks at the ratings and asks personal questions, which stay completely confidential.
After this process, if the counselor decides there is a problem, he or she recommends counseling. A list of clinics is provided, and based upon income, insurance and availability, the driver makes an appointment to see a counselor to decide on the form of treatment needed. Treatment can range from a month to three months or more.
In some instances a permitted license can be issued for school or work. There are three types of hardship licenses. One is a business permit, allowing driving for school, work, medical and church purposes. Another is just for school, and the other just for work. This hardship license costs $35 plus a $10 processing fee.
However, costs are not the only consequences of a DUI. There are some things that money can’t buy or replace. Character, personality, attitude and reputation all factor into this.
“In 2002, out of 42,800 fatal crashes in the U.S., 41 percent of them were alcohol related,” Russ Bates, instructor of Milton DUI Level I course, said.
According to Bates, once someone understands behavior, he or she can change it.
“We are killing ourselves at a faster rate than at wars,” Bates said.
I was fortunate enough not to receive a DUI even after testing over the .02 minimum blood alcohol level and being underage. On March 4, about a month after my incident, two people I barely knew were killed because they were drinking and driving. They were both around my age, 19-20, and it really struck home. Although they were not dear friends, I thought about my experience and I realized how lucky I really was for just receiving a suspension.Although it seemed like it was the end of my world because I couldn’t drive anymore and I had a number of fees to pay, nothing seemed worse than to know I didn’t have another chance to make the right decision. You can still enjoy yourself; if you do, don’t drive.
Just don’t do it; it isn’t worth it.