Early in June, 2004 two 15-year-old boys were drinking at a third friend's house. They concieved of the bright idea of "borrowing" Ms. Roni Jean Rose's 1996 Oldsmobile Regency sedan. The combination of alcohol, alcohol, alcohol and youth caused the driver to crash the car in the little community of Gimlet (between Ketchum and Hailey in Idaho.) The driver was arrested and sent to the Snake River Juvenile Detention Center, the passenger was cited for consumption of alcohol by a minor.
I personally think that the Idaho habit of marketing and selling little bottles has something to do with teen drinkin' and drivin'. The little bottles are a couple of bucks, and it seems darned easy to slip an adult a fiver and come away with some booze.
In Idaho, beer and wine are sold by private stores--grocery stores and convenience stores, mostly. Wine consumption rose by 10 percent after it was privatized.
That's been a recurring argument by opponents of liquor privatization, who say that state ownership of liquor stores helps keep liquor out of the hands of underage drinkers and alcoholics, since store employees have no personal financial incentive in the store's profit margins.
Youth worker Eric Thomas says there's a complete disregard for the law when it comes to underage drinking. Thomas said even a Blaine County Teen Advisory Committee member--"the kind of girl you'd want your daughter to be"--told him that kids consider it their right to drink and believe they are drinking responsibly.
They may think they're drinking responsibly. But, nevertheless, DUIs for teen-age drinking are on the increase, said John Blackburn, vice principle of Wood River High School.
Probation officers are afraid it's going to take a teen-ager dying before some parents understand that underage drinking can cause problems.
To that end, Blaine County's Criminal Justice Council is considering whether the problem of underage drinking should be addressed at a community level.
"The real problem in our community is not the children but the parents of children who are not providing proper guidance," said Len Harlig, who co-chairs the council. "We need to do something; we can't just say it's human nature. It's not just the social costs we're looking at but the financial and emotional costs, as well."
Oddly enough, drinking age in Idaho is 21, but the minimum age to work in a state-owned liquor store is 19.
If you are interested in this,
One would figure the criminal penalties for providing underage people with alcohol would be severe.
One would be wrong.
According to local Idaho police and the county prosecutor's office, in most cases, the maximum charge faced by an adult caught providing alcohol to a minor is misdemeanor "procuring alcohol for a minor." A misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a maximum fine of $300.
In Idaho, teens seem to think they have some inalienable right to drink and drive.
If the minor is involved in a fatal accident, charging someone with accessory to manslaughter would be difficult and case-specific.
It would depend on the circumstances and police would have to connect a lot of dots, says Lt. Bob Clements, the Idaho State Police's Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau chief.
Boise's Channel Two will air a segment on underaged drinking in Idaho.
UNDERAGE DRINKING, Air Date - JULY 4, 2004 Suicide, homicide, sexual assault and date rape of teens can all be traced back to the use of alcohol as one of the three leading causes. It is also the fourth leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24. Today our "Eye" is on underage drinking, both the cause as well as the consequence. Today's guest is the Medical Director of St. Alphonsus Emergency Department, Doctor Mike Mercy. Subjects discussed will include how parents can determine if their youngsters has a drinking problem as well as what they can do to solve the problem.
MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) has a branch in Idaho.