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DUI arrests of underage drivers in Marin show significant increase from 2011

drunk driving wreck

Authorities in Marin County have reported a sizable uptick in the number of DUI arrests of underage drivers in Marin County who are also drinking and driving drunk, reports. According to a statement from law enforcement, the increase is not the result of stepped-up enforcement.

Early last month, the San Jose Mercury News reported on the case of San Rafael resident Darik Thunstrom. Police stopped and arrested Thunstrom after spotting his black BMW speeding and weaving down Highway 101 in Corte Madera at around 11:30 p.m. When the officer stopped the vehicle, he discovered marijuana, smoking pipes and 35 cans of beer. Thunstrom was 18 years old at the time of his arrest.

Thunstrom has hardly been alone this year, however. Across Marin County, law enforcement officers arrested six drivers age 18 or younger for suspicion of DUI. That brought the total number for 2012, to date, up to 16. For the entire year of 2011, officers in the county only arrested 10 18-and-under drivers on suspicion of DUI, according to Sergeant Marcus Bartholomew of the California Highway Patrol. Most of the arrests occurred on freeways and unincorporated county roads. California has a “zero tolerance” law for underage drunk drivers, setting the legal maximum blood alcohol content for those under 21 at .01 percent.

The numbers for 19 and 20-year-old drivers were much more encouraging, though. 2012 to date has yielded 22 arrests, while authorities arrested 50 19 and 20-year-old drivers in 2011. Law enforcement officers expect the numbers to climb substantially higher during the fourth quarter of 2012, given the prevalence of school breaks, holidays and New Year’s Eve. “As parents leave town for vacations and leave high school and returning college age children at home, we can expect more house parties with underage teen drinking and drug use throughout Marin,” Sergeant Bartholomew stated in a press release.

The costs of such an arrest can be staggering. According to “Underage Drunk Driving: A Parent and Teen Guide,” a 2006 collaborative project between Traffic Safe Communities Network, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and the Stanford University Medical Center, the estimated costs, just for a first-time misdemeanor DUI, amounted to $10,878. The California Court System’s “Stop Teen DUI” web site set the number much higher, at $45,435.

On a national level, studies seem to indicate that the prevalence of underage drunk driving may be declining. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which researched the period from 1991 to 2011, the rate of teenage drunk driving incidents decreased by 54 percent over the last 20 years.

Great efforts have been made to educate teens regarding the potential dangers of drinking and driving. Information from the CDC seems to indicate that these efforts may be working, convincing young people, if not to drink before they are 21, at least not to drive when they drink. The recent cases from Marin County, though, show that this is still a work in progress that should be continued in order ensure everyone’s safety on the roads. If, however, you or your child faces a DUI matter, our experienced Santa Rosa DUI attorneys can help. Our Petaluma DUI attorneys are knowledgeable and here to make sure that your rights are protected.

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