Those concerned about teen driving accidents will be glad to know that a new law recently took effect in Illinois that should help to deter underage drinking and driving – by placing a greater responsibility on parents.

The law, HB 4745/PA 98-1017, expands on a prior provision of Illinois law that imposed “social host liability” on any parent (or guardian) who knowingly allowed alcohol to be consumed by minors at the parent’s residence.

Under that law, if it could be shown that the minor’s alcohol consumption caused a crash that injured or killed another, the parent could be held liable in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit by the crash victim or survivors.

The new law extends liability beyond drinking at the residence. It covers any parent who knowingly permits alcohol to be consumed by a minor at any other private property or in any vehicle, watercraft or other conveyance under the parent’s control.

Teen Drinking and Driving in Illinois Is a Problem

Illinois lawmakers should be applauded for making a progressive step towards reducing the number of teen auto accidents in our state – specifically those that involve drinking and driving.

Teen Drinking and Driving Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, in 2012 (the most recent stats available), roughly 184,000 drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 suffered injuries in crashes nationwide, while 1,875 died.

Unfortunately, alcohol consumption by minors has been a factor in many of these serious and deadly crashes. The NHTSA reports that, in 2012, 28 percent of drivers between the age of 15 and 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01 or higher.

Additionally, the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center(UDETC) indicates that the problem of underage drinking in Illinois has a high cost. One of the factors driving up that cost is traffic crashes caused by underage drinkers.

According to the UDETC, underage drinking in Illinois carried a nearly $3 million cost in terms of medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering in 2010.

The UDETC breaks down the costs in Illinois as:

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Click here to view table.

Of course, these are just numbers and dollar figures. They do not reflect the terrible emotional impact that teen alcohol-related crashes have on the lives of victims and their families.

These victims include not only occupants of other vehicles involved in auto accidents caused by drinking teen drivers but also passengers in cars driven by the teens.

Parents Should Be Held Accountable

As the above statistics show, strong laws are needed to stop underage drinking and driving in Illinois. Placing greater responsibility on parents is one way to accomplish that goal.

Hopefully, knowing they face serious criminal and civil consequences if they allow their teens and their friends to drink alcohol at the residence, in a car or vehicle or on any other property under their control will make parents more vigilant.

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a car, motorcycle, boat or other other accident  caused by a teen, you should get help from an experienced attorney who will seek to hold all at-fault parties accountable.