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DUIs and the Graduation Season


It’s the time of year where seniors and their families celebrate the end of one chapter in their lives and the beginning of another. With all the pomp and circumstance, and all the ceremonies and parties, there tends to be a lot of drinking as well. Unfortunately, this leads to drinking and driving. Annually, 3,000 teens ages 16-19 die in automobile accidents and 225,000 more are sent to Emergency Rooms with serious injuries. In fact, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, car crashes are the leading cause of death among teens, and alcohol is involved in fully one-third (33%) of these fatal accidents. During graduation season the percentage of alcohol-related fatalities climbs to an even worse 40%.


What accounts for these drinking and driving crashes and the spike in them during graduation season? A poll taken in 2010 found only 25% of juniors and seniors thought driving on graduation night might be a dangerous activity even though nearly 80% of these students admitted that teens were more likely to drink and drive that night.

What teens don’t necessarily realize is that drinking and driving is not a planned activity. Judgment under the influence of alcohol is compromised, and teens who would normally know better do not—and make the wrong decision to drink and drive. Similarly, designated driver plans often go wrong when a group fails to actually designate a person to stay sober all night and instead just assumes that someone in the group will—and then no one does. At the end of the night everyone in the group is inebriated and all make impaired decisions—to let someone in the group who “seems sober” drive them all home.


The best way to prevent the above situations is to start educating your children early on about the effects of alcohol on their brains—their judgment, and their motor skills. Have honest and often conversations with kids at all ages about the risks associated with drinking and driving. Explain why they cannot be the judge of when they have had too much to drink to be fit to drive and therefore any amount of alcohol means no driving. Offer a no-punishment option of calling home for a ride or using a car service app on their phone if they and their friends have been drinking.

Get creative with the celebrations. Try getting together with other parents and renting a pool for a big pool party. Maybe get a big group together for bowling, or a Netflix movie marathon. For the more adventurous, try hiking or rock climbing. Don’t just assume that the only way teens want to celebrate is with a big party and a lot of alcohol; when offered an alternative, they may be glad to take it.


If you have been the victim of a DUI crash and suffered serious injury, or if a loved one was killed in a DUI crash, you can recover both monetary and punitive damages under Georgia law. Monetary damages include recovery for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Punitive damages do what they sound like: punish the perpetrator. Whereas punitive damages are normally capped at $225,000 in Georgia, they can be unlimited for victims of drunk drivers, both to serve as a punishment and a deterrent. DUI victims can also sue businesses such as a restaurant or bar who served alcohol to an intoxicated person who caused a DUI crash.


Driving Under the Influence is a crime. Criminal penalties range from a minimum of 10 days to a maximum of 1 year in jail and fines from $300 to $1,000 for a first offense to a first degree felony charge of vehicular homicide if the DUI accident causes a fatality, with a sentence of 3-15 years in prison.


If you or someone you know has been involved in a DUI crash, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation of your legal rights.

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Thomas Law Firm
Located at 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Resurgens Plaza, GA 30326.

Phone: (678) 264-8348.
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