Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department Works to Prevent Teenage Drunk Driving and Fatalities

1156122_another_beer.jpgWest Virginia police hope to curb prom night drinking and driving with a program called Operation Graduation Prom Alive. As part of the program, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department has asked high school students to sign forms vowing not to drink and drive, and stating that they agreed to take a breathalyzer test.

In addition to having students sign forms, the seven-year-old program has kept officers stationed at various proms across the county. The officers keep watch at DUI checkpoints and are encouraged to patrol post-prom parties, where drinking is most likely to occur. Each year, the sheriff’s department is given $15,000 and overtime fees to keep the program going. The results have been dramatic: there have been no fatalities associated with prom or graduation.

This year, the sheriff’s department decided to add a new component. Students could take part in the distracted driving program, an interactive driving course where student participants are distracted by cell phones and changes in traffic patterns. The experience should only increase students’ awareness of driver safety and reduce their likelihood of drunk or distracted driving.

Distracted driving is thought to be responsible for 16% of all fatal car crashes and 21% of all crashes that cause an injury. Meanwhile, motor vehicle deaths are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 20. Although teens are only 14% of the population, they account for nearly one third of all car crashes. In 2009, 3,000 teens across the country were killed and more than 350,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries related to crashes. Because of these disquieting statistics, the Wolfe Law Firm supports the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department’s efforts and hopes that it continues to yield results.

While teens are technically children under the law, driving a vehicle is an adult responsibility that needs to be handled with care. An intoxicated teen who hits another car can cause just as much damage as an intoxicated adult. However, if you or your loved one are injured by a teenage drunk driver and decide to sue for negligence, he or she might not be treated the same as an adult. Under negligence theory, adults are judged by the standard of a “reasonable person,” an ordinary, moderate adult who may or may not exist in real life. An adult could be of lower intelligence than the “reasonable person” and still be held to the same standard.

On the other hand, children — those younger than 18 and primarily those between the ages of 6 and 17 — are held to the standard of “a reasonable child of the same age and ability.” Therefore, a 17-year old would be held to the standard of a 17-year old of the same intelligence and ability. This standard gives children more leeway than the “reasonable person” standard gives adults. However, there are exceptions — such as if the child is performing an adult activity. Then, the child may be judged as an adult. Driving is widely considered to be an adult activity, so you could argue that the teen who injured you should be treated as an adult and judged by the “reasonable person” standard.

If you or your loved one were injured by drunk driver, teenager or otherwise, find a West Virginia car accident attorney right away.