Illinois Underage Drinking Law Proposed in Response to Fatal Oswego Drunken Driving Accident
By: Chris Kramer
The death of five Oswego teens during a February 11th drunk driving accident has led to the proposal of an Illinois underage drinking law which would ban people under 21 from driving anywhere for three months after being caught and convicted of drinking.
Illinois State Representative Tom Cross and Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis have introduced House Bill 3131 as a means to curb not only underage drinking but also driving while intoxicated for this demographic. This proposed Illinois underage drinking law would make any person who is below 21 years of age and caught drinking any alcohol subject to a three month driver's license suspension.
This proposed Illinois underage drinking law does not require the youth to be convicted of underage drinking and driving. Rather, the penalties would apply to anyone under 21 who has been convicted of drinking. Under current Illinois underage drinking law, people below 21 who are caught drinking but not driving are typically given three months supervision. In other words, they can avoid jail time if not arrested again for underage drinking during that time.
This current Illinois underage drinking bill is also being accompanied by measure which would require all Illinois driver's education courses to talk about the consequences of DUI. While most driver's education classes already cover this topic, they are not required to do so under current law, according to an online Suburban Chicago News story.
Weis said in the story that he hopes the threat of losing the freedom to drive for three months would convince people under 21 to not drink. Weis added that after the fatal Oswego accident, he wondered what could have been done to prevent such tragedies.
February Illinois Drunken Driving Accident Involved Eight Teens Packed in One Car!
Weis said in the Suburban Chicago News story that alcohol could have factored into the decision of eight teens to pack themselves into a small car driven by 23-year-old Sandra Vazquez. Police believe that the teens were coming from a party in nearby Montgomery prior to the accident.
Vazquez was speeding in her 2001 Infiniti Sedan when she struck a utility bill, killing five of the teens and injuring the three others. A hospital drawing of her blood later revealed Vazquez's blood alcohol content (BAC) level to be .124 percent. When translated to a breathalyzer, the story said her BAC was approximately .101 percent, which is above the legal 0.08 percent BAC limit as stipulated in Illinois DUI law.
Vazquez has pleaded not guilty to aggravated drunken driving and reckless homicide charges. She is currently free on bond and due back in court on April 24 th.
While this proposed Illinois underage drinking law would not have applied to Vazquez, Weis wondered whether the deceased and injured victims would have been in such a predicament to begin with if such a law existed and they knew that they could lose their driving privileges.
Weis added that he expects this proposed underage drinking law to draw some criticism from parents who may complain about having to pick up their children and the embarrassment of having their licenses suspended. Weis said embarrassment is part of the proposed law's design, and that tougher enforcement of Illinois underage drinking is much better than police having to knock on their doors with tragic news that their child was killed in a drunken driving accident.
Other Illinois DUI Legislation Would Bolster Penalties For Repeat Offenders Arrested with Children in Their Vehicles!
In addition to the above Illinois underage drinking legislation, legislators in the Land of Lincoln are considering a bill which would increase DUI penalties for repeat offenders who are arrested on suspicion of drunken driving with kids in their vehicles.
State Representative Chuck Jefferson has co-sponsored a bill which would increase the fine for a similar first-time Illinois DUI offense by 25 times. A second Illinois DUI conviction involving an arrest with children in the car would be considered a felony punishable by three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal Recently Signed a Similar DUI Law!
A recently-signed Wyoming DUI law has boosted penalties for repeat DUI offenders in the state who are arrested with children in their car.