Under the Influence


Karina Popowycz

The danger of drinking and driving is very prevalent among teenagers in today’s society.

Kayla Burge, Photo Editor

As the hazing blue and red lights and the piercing sound of the siren irritates the intoxicated mind, a dark figure is standing in front of the side window. The driver is under the influence of alcohol, along with a forever changed legal status and countless troubles with their future.

In addition, 60 percent of all teen deaths from car accidents involve alcohol. 

Alcohol is an antidepressant because the substance slows down a person’s central nervous system. This substance impairs the person’s cognitive skills, such as processing information, and hand-eye coordination. 

Driving under the influence or impaired (DUI) is the crime of driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even those prescribed by physicians. These levels of intoxication are measured by a person’s Blood Alcohol Level (BAC).  The illegal percentage a person needs to have in order to receive a DUI is between 0.5 percent and 0.8 percent BAC. Nothing is strictly black and white since there are many factors that weigh in to the blood alcohol level such as body weight, gender, etc.

Data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) states that teens, between the age of 16-20, who drink and drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.8 percent are 17 times more likely to die in a car crash.

And one need not be behind the wheel to be at risk. In a national survey, 24 percent of teens reported that within the previous month, they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

The effects of being convicted of driving under the influence can greatly impact one’s life including loss of employment, prevention of employment in the future, higher insurance rates, financial setbacks, embarrassment, difficulty with college admissions, and possible incarceration. 

According to The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, being convicted for a DUI can lead to fines up to $500 for the first conviction and greater than $4,000 for the fourth. In the Florida Statues, there is prison time involved with certain cases of DUI, ranging from months to years.

Teens drinking in this age range is an extremely dangerous mixture because these teens are still becoming acquainted with the road and it’s rules; adding drugs or alcohol is a totally destructive combination.

According to the CDC, in 2016, more than one million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.  

Although there have been many actions taken to raise awareness and prevention for teens driving impaired or under the influence; there are still cases of teen death in motor vehicle accidents occuring today. And while the percentage has decreased since 1991, 10 percent of teens in high school still drink and drive.

Although progress is being made regarding drunk driving, teens still feel pressure to consume drugs and alcohol.

While most often it is the abuse of alcohol that leads to teen drunk driving, psychology teacher Dr. Billy Booth suggests some students may have other factors involved.

“Some people have a genetic pre-disposition or are exposed to alcohol. Alcoholism runs in families, therefore there is an opportunity for alcoholism to be transmitted from parent to child. Genetics and biology are not necessarily always destiny, so alcoholism can also be a learned behavior if we are putting ourselves in an environment where alcohol is widely consumed,” said Booth.

Addiction can pertain to any substance that excites the brain and creates a feeling of euphoria. Dr. Booth says anyone can form an addiction to alcohol.

“More like any substance a person puts into their body, be that sugar or caffeine, we are going to form an addiction to it because it excites the reward pathways in the brain and creates a feeling of euphoria. We trick ourselves to think that we need this substance to calm down or have fun. Not only does it become a learned behavior but we also learn to seek out environments where it’s easily obtained or socially acceptable,” said Booth.

The CDC adds that, drugs other than alcohol are involved in about 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes.

Protecting the driver’s life and legal status along with the roadways and the many others affected by an intoxicated driver is equally important. Despite a tremendous amount of progress being made towards the cause there is always more to do. Students can be a positive, or negative influence on each other.