Nobody wants minors to drink and drive and Washington’s minor dui law is known as a “zero tolerance” law. Washington’s law prohibits a minor from driving after consuming alcohol. The law is commonly known as a “Minor DUI” but it a violation does not require proof that the minor drove under the influence of alcohol. All that is required is that the minor drive after drinking, as evidenced with a breath test reading of .02 or higher. It is considered a simple misdemeanor, but minor DUI carries potential jail time and licensing consequences for minors.
Everyone would agree with the intent of this law and it is hoped that the existence of this law would deter teen drinking and driving. However, Science Daily reports that a study by a Sam Houston State University economist found that these laws have no effect. The economist analyzed data from 30,000 fatalities in nighttime accidents involving drivers under age 21 and concluded that “zero tolerance” laws did not modify the behavior of drivers under age 21. This conclusion was based upon his statistical analysis of blood alcohol concentrations involved in drivers two years before zero-tolerance laws were enacted in a particular state, and again two years after enactment.
This is not to say, however, that these laws should be repealed. These laws should be viewed as part of an overall program intended to reduce teen tragedies related to drinking and driving. Concurrent alcohol education and changing the attitudes of drivers under 21 about drinking and driving, in conjunction with “zero tolerance” laws is bound to have a positive impact in the future. The mere existence of a “zero tolerance” law by itself is simply not enough.