Did you know that most of the people killed in alcohol-related crashes include teenage drivers and passengers? According to NCDOT.gov, in 2009, 139 sixteen to nineteen-year-olds were fatally injured on North Carolina roadways, and 24 were in alcohol-related crashes. The fact is too many people still fail to realize the danger of mixing alcohol with driving. As a result, North Carolina has a zero tolerance law when it comes to underage drinking.
The Zero Tolerance Law makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drive after consuming alcohol. The law also applies to drug use. In the state of North Carolina, you are breaking the law if you are under the age of 21 and you:
- Drive while drinking;
- Drive while any amount of alcohol you previously consumed is still in your system; or
- Drive while any amount of drugs you previously consumed (unless lawfully obtained and taken as prescribed) remain in your system.
21 and Convicted of Drunk Driving
What happens if a person under the age of 21 is caught and convicted of driving after consuming alcohol? Driving drunk costs you big and North Carolina’s Zero Tolerance Law outlines strict, impactful consequences:
- Your driving license is revoked for one year.
- If 18 to 20 years of age at the time of the charge with no prior convictions for the same charge, driving privileges are limited, and a $100 fee must be paid to obtain those privileges.
- A Class 2 misdemeanor.
- A $250 fee or jail time plus community service hours.
- A fine of up to $1,000.
- Attorney fees of $500 to $1,000.
- An increase in insurance premiums by 400 percent.
Add to this list the additional ramifications of an underage drinking conviction. For those under 21, this means:
- A Class 1 misdemeanor for anyone drinking under the age of 19, punishable by a fine amount at the court’s discretion, community service hours, a $250 fee or jail time, and court costs of around $180.
- A Class 3 misdemeanor for anyone drinking under the age of 19, punishable by community service and a fine of up to $200 and a $250 fee or jail time, in addition to court costs of around $180.
- Attorney fees ranging from $300 to $800.
Additional penalties are in place for anyone under the age of 21 who is convicted of purchasing or attempting to purchase alcoholic beverages.
The Problem of Underage Drinking in North Carolina
Why does North Carolina take such a strict and costly approach to punishing underage drinkers and those who drive drunk? Consider: in a 2009 national survey, 14.3 percent of adolescents in NC had consumed alcohol within the past month, and another 8.9 percent had engaged in binge drinking. Additionally, 39 percent of 8th graders, 58 percent of 10th graders, and 72 percent of 12th graders reported trying alcohol at least once in their lifetime.
Alcohol and driving don’t mix just as much as alcohol and underage drinking don’t miss. North Carolina’s Zero Tolerance Law is a concentrated effort to discourage drunk driving and teach underage drinkers to consequences of their actions.