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Prevent Underage Drinking and Driving in Oregon

Without a doubt, drunk driving is a problem in Oregon, along with the rest of the country. And when you combine alcohol and motor vehicles, and then add an underage driver into the mix, you’ve got a real recipe for disaster.

Now, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) is looking for ways to prevent underage drinking in Oregon, and they’re asking for the public’s health. Even though Oregon law prohibits anyone other than a parent or guardian to provide alcohol to an individual under the age of 21, the problem actually appears to be getting worse.

Shocking underage drinking statistics

The total population of Oregon is 3.79 million people, and of these, about 470,000 are aged between 12 and 20. Figures compiled over a four-year period reveal the shocking facts regarding underage drinking in Oregon, including:

  • Almost one in every 10 Oregonians between 12 and 14 years of age (more than 9 percent), use alcohol at least once per month.
  • More than 9,000 of that same age group admit to going on a binge-drinking session at least once per month.
  • More than a quarter of 15 to 17-year-olds say they drink at least once a month, and an incredible 23,000 (or 15.5 percent) admit to binge drinking once a month
  • For 18 to 20-year-olds, the figures are even worse. More than half (53.8 percent) drink at least once a month, and more than a third (37.2 percent) participate in binge drinking every month.

Where do they get it?

Minors are very industrious when it comes to obtaining alcohol, and it always starts with a “good excuse.” Prom and graduation are two occasions when teenagers feel like celebrating to a greater extent than usual, and they often turn to older friends or even family members to get them a supply.

In addition, stores quickly gain a reputation for being easy targets where young people with dodgy ID’s can buy some beer, wine or whiskey. All stores in Oregon are required to ensure anyone purchasing alcohol is at least 21 years of age.

To get around these requirements, minors will use a variety of methods to obtain a false ID, including:

  • Altering their own ID by cutting and switching numbers to change the date of birth
  • Borrowing an ID from an older sibling and pretending to be that person
  • Using commonly available computer software programs to generate a very believable ID
  • Taking their own photo and an older sibling’s birth certificate to the DMV and get a new license with the proper photo, but the sibling’s name and other data
  • Purchasing an ID from a magazine or an online source

Anyone caught using a fake ID in order to misrepresent their age is committing a Class C misdemeanor under ORS165.805. Conviction can result in the loss of driving privileges for as much as a year.

Where adults can make a difference

The first thing any responsible adult should do is to give a point-blank refusal to allow their home or property to be used by underage drinkers. It is not against the law for parents to provide alcohol to their own children in Oregon, but it is a criminal offense to allow any other minor to drink alcohol on your property.

The next thing anyone can do if they suspect a store is selling alcohol to minors is to call the OLCC or the local police. The OLCC number can be called free of charge from anywhere in the state.  Freephone 800-452-6522 with as much information as you can possibly provide, including the traditional “who, what, when, where, why and how.” This will help officials pursue a successful prosecution and stop the outlet from selling liquor to minors in the future.  begin_of_the_skype_highlighting

Most importantly, parents can talk with their minor children and explain the dangers and illegalities of underage drinking in Oregon.

For their part, the OLCC is working hard with grocery stores and liquor outlets to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors. When they receive reports of sales being made, they contact the store owner or manager and explain the complaint and potential penalties, which can include:

  • A $350 fine for the first conviction
  • A $1,000 fine for the second conviction
  • A $1,000 fine and a prison term of at least 30 days for third and any subsequent convictions. These penalties are clearly defined in ORS471.410.

The OLCC also works pro-actively with store owners on methods to stop liquor sales to minors. They show people with liquor licenses how to spot potential furnishers and other methods through which underage drinkers acquire alcohol.

Too many Oregon accidents are caused by drunk drivers, and the trend of underage drinkers getting behind the wheel and causing serious injuries or even death is an increasingly worrying phenomenon on Oregon roads.  A large number of Oregon statutes deal with what happens to people who supply liquor to minors or who allow their property to be used by underage drinkers.

There are also penalties for minors who buy alcohol for themselves or others, including loss of driving privileges, fines and in extreme cases, prison or juvenile detention.

For the trend to be reversed, however, attitudes must change. People who care must do their part by reporting the places they believe are furnishing liquor, by refusing to allow their property to be used for underage drinking, and by making it very clear to their own children that, whatever about drinking at home, drinking and driving is utterly unacceptable.

In the meantime, accidents involving underage drinking and driving will continue to cause accidents that seriously injure innocent road users. It’s essential that these innocent victims do not have to cover their own medical expenses and lost income.

To make sure you and your family receive the compensation you deserve, contact an experienced Portland car accident attorney for help. Underage drunk driving cases come with their own complications in terms of insurance and your claim, so you’ll want a lawyer who has dealt with these types of cases in the past.