The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 3, 2011

Underage drunken-driving law about the alcohol, not the impairment

By Sgt. Jacalyn Sticha

By Sgt. Jacalyn Sticha
Minnesota State Patrol

DID YOU KNOW? Youth, Alcohol and Driving.

Did you know that the Minor Consumption While Driving Law is not about impairment? It is about consuming alcohol under 21 and partnering that choice with driving. If a minor is impaired while driving they are charged with DWI just like adults. There is no Junior DWI charge.

Did you know that Minor Consumption is a separate statute from Minor Consumption While Driving? Driving a vehicle being the difference. When charged, under either law, the law enforcement agency has taken a preliminary breath test and most devices provide them with the blood alcohol content.  It is important for parents to find out this result because it may be an indicator of dependence, regular use or problems beyond the single incident.

Did you know that the MN Department of Education and the MN Department of Health reported, in the 2010 Minnesota Statewide Student Survey, that 16% of  male and 8% of female 12th grade students admitted they had drove 2 or 3 times when drinking or using drugs in the preceding  twelve months? Furthermore, 7% of males and 6% of females in the 12th grade have driven a vehicle once after using. During these 12 months,  4% of all 9th graders reported they had driven 1 to 3 times after using alcohol or drugs.  

Did you know, in the same survey, 37%  of  male and 29% of female 12th grade students rode with a friend who was driving while using alcohol or drugs;  17% of males and 16% of females in 9th grade reported the same?

Did you know most alcohol related crashes occur on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays?  These three days combined account for 40% of all traffic crashes, but 61% of alcohol related Crashes.  The late Night hours 9 PM to 3AM account for 12% of all crashes, but 50% of alcohol related crashes. [MN 2010 Crash Facts]

Did you know that waiting until 21 years of age before introduction to alcohol gives our youth the best chance of remaining trouble free with regards to alcohol?  Every year earlier the introduction to alcohol takes place -  the risk increases.  Alcohol issues are widespread; crashes, fatalities, family, school dropout rates, jobs, parenting, etc.   Alcohol use drastically increases our youth’s chances of being involved in violence – as aggressor or victim – including assault and rape.  

Did you know that the 2010 Minnesota Student Survey finds that 13% of males and 8% of females in the 6th grade report their first alcohol use, beyond a few sips, at 10 years of age or younger?  

Did you know that in Minnesota 420 people were killed on our roadways in 2010; 141 of the fatalities were from alcohol related crashes? Did you know that our youth is overly represented in these numbers? Generational change and a huge adjustment in our attitudes about youth and alcohol is required if we are to reduce death and injury on our highways in the future. Alcohol is not a RITE OF PASSAGE.

The 2010 Minnesota Student Survey can be found at