Wisconsin teens and alcohol are a mixed news topic. The good news: The percent of high schoolers who drink alcohol has dropped over the last decade. The bad news: According to information available on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website, Wisconsin ranks in the top 10 states for the percent of high schoolers who drank alcohol recently and fourth for percent of high schoolers who ever drank alcohol.

“When you combine teens, alcohol and driving, it becomes a deadly and costly problem,” Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Anthony Burrell said. “This summer we’re asking parents to remind their teens that it is illegal to drink under the aged of 21,” Superintendent Burrell said, “and it is illegal and deadly to drink and drive.”

Just like any driver, a driver under age 21 can be charged with drunken driving if they’re above the legal limit or show signs of alcohol impairment. In addition, with Wisconsin’s Absolute Sobriety "Not a Drop" Law [346.63 (2m)] drivers under age 21 face fines and other penalties for any blood alcohol level below 0.08.

Data shows that drinking any amount of alcohol before driving increases crash risk among teen drivers as compared with older drivers. Teen drivers have a much higher risk for being involved in a crash than older drivers at the same blood alcohol concentration (BAC), even at BAC levels below the legal limit for adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens are more likely than anyone else to be killed in an alcohol-related crash. Even though the minimum legal drinking age in every state is 21, data shows 16% of 15- to 18-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018 had been drinking.

Teens who escape physical harm for themselves or others may face additional costs, including the loss of their driver's license, and dozens of other expenses including attorney fees, court costs, other fines and insurance rate increases. Unique consequences to teens include loss of academic eligibility, college acceptance and scholarship awards.

“In Wisconsin, our goal is zero,” Burrell said. “Zero teens drinking and driving, and zero lives preventable deaths on Wisconsin roads. Let’s make this a safe and sober summer.”

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