One often hears how bad things are in New Jersey for those individuals who find themselves in receipt of a summons for drunken driving, breath test refusal or any of a number of impaired driving charges. The fact is that the clock will likely never be turned back to the old days of a nod and a wink; when drunken motorists received a fine and maybe spent the night in jail, but mostly to sober up in order to head to work in the following morning. That was then, but this is now.
Safety advocates and anti-drunk driving groups continue to keep the pressure on federal, state and local governments and police agencies to rein in bad drivers and arrest those who operate their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs. The Garden State is one of the states with rather stiff penalties for those convicted of driving while intoxicated, but that’s not to say there aren’t others with similarly strict laws and attitudes.
And legal statutes aside, society itself is less and less tolerant of those who drink and drive. But there are instances that cause one to take a step back and consider the issues at play. There was an incident that took place over in the Boston area not long ago, which illustrates that one situation where a high school’s policy regarding underage drinking affected one apparently conscientious teenager in a very negative way.
According to news articles, a Massachusetts high school student was herself punished for being designated driver for a friend who had reportedly consumed too much alcohol at a local party. The young woman, a 17-year-old North Andover high school student, apparently lost her position as captain of her volleyball team after school officials found out that she went to the location of a party to pick up an intoxicated friend.
To make things even worse for the apparently thoughtful teen, she was suspended from playing on the school’s volleyball team for five whole games. The incident took place this past fall when the young lady got a phone call from a friend who was allegedly drunk. The teen drove to the party to pick up her friend, but was met at the location by a number of local police. Those officers reportedly arrested about a dozen underage drinkers, warning another 15 youths, including the volleyball team’s captain, that they would be summoned to court for underage drinking.
Sadly for this considerate young woman, and despite having an officer vouch for her sobriety, she still received a summons for underage drinking along with others who were found at the party. As a result, she was reportedly stripped of her captain’s position. A spokesperson for the high school told reporters that the school is making a stand against teen drinking, which still doesn’t explain fully how a sober individual would be lumped together with other intoxicated teens.
As one might expect, the young lady’s family hired an attorney to fight not only the underage drinking charges, but also to help the teen clear her now tarnished character. The family reportedly supports their daughter’s choice to help a friend from becoming a possible statistic, since many teens do find themselves injured or killed in DWI-related car accidents.
In a statement issued by the family’s attorney, the youngster’s punishment by the school conveys a message that is contrary to everything that safety and anti-DWI advocates have been saying; that, effectively, it’s better to let a friend drive drunk than to do the right thing and risk being arrested yourself for being a designated driver. Needless to say, at the time of the news article, the family’s lawyer was preparing a lawsuit against the school district as a way of communicating a message to officials that it is bad policy to impose sanctions on those students whose only offense is attempting to prevent an alcohol-related tragedy.
North Andover teen punished for being designated driver, MyFoxBoston.com, October 14, 2013
SOBER student, 17, is suspended from high school; DailyMail.co.uk; October 14, 2013