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Our Opinion: A time of celebration, not tragedy

News Tribune editorial

For teens, May is a time of celebration.

Prom royalty is being announced, academic honors are being awarded and graduations will follow.

In an effort to make safety an integral part of those events, Missouri law enforcement agencies have announced a crackdown on underage drunk driving through May 13.

Sadly, celebrations of joy and achievement among teens are mixed with alcohol much too frequently.

Statistics from the Missouri Highway Patrol show, from 2009-2011, accidents involving impaired drivers under age 21 – the legal drinking age in Missouri – resulted in 83 fatalities and 233 disabling injuries.

Impaired teen drivers who escape death or injury still face severe consequences.

Under the state’s Zero Tolerance Law, licenses are suspended for drivers under age 21 who are caught with even a trace of alcohol in their systems.

Other consequences include jail time, court-ordered ignition interlocks, attorney fees and court costs, and higher insurance rates.

The criminal and financial burdens are severe, particularly for young people embarking on paths to careers or higher education.

“Drinking and driving is not worth the risk,” said Leanna Depue, chairwoman of the executive committee of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety. “Zero tolerance means zero chances,” she added, citing the coalition’s slogan: “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

We encourage teens to heed and parents to reinforce this timely message.

Make May a month of celebration, not tragedy.

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