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Idaho Adults Enable Teen Drunken Drivers


Teenagers and young adults in Idaho represent less than 10 percent of licensed drivers, yet they account for nearly 20 percent of the state's fatal car crashes-a third above the national average. Alcohol is blamed as a leading contributor to these grim statistics, yet the State of Idaho agencies are pointing the finger squarely at adults in their efforts to reduce those numbers.

This year, the federal Enforcing Underage Drinkng Laws (EUDL) program will funnel $350,000 into the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. State Coordinator Nancy Lopez says her agency's funding traditionally supports efforts such as media awareness campaigns, the Idaho College Health Coalition and the governor's "Prom and Graduation Safety Month" proclamation. In addition, it will issue 14 subgrants of $7,500 to city and county law enforcement for policing functions, compliance checks on bars, convenience stores and state-operated liquor outlets.

Lopez decries high rates of teen drinking, she says, "because it leads to suicides, date rape, accidents, kids' deaths." At the same time, she says that in many Idaho communities, teens still enjoy ready access to alcohol. In Idaho Falls, Lopez notes that "over one-third of all the convenience stores, half the bars and two-thirds of the state liquor stores" have been found to sell to youngsters, "and Idaho Falls is one of the lowest" statewide. In small towns such St. Anthony's and Arco, no establishments were found to card customers, while in Boise, "up to 90 percent of vendors at outdoor festivals" flout the law.

Lt. Bob Clemens with the Idaho Alcohol Control Board confirms that funds will be dedicated to compliance checks, and notes that individual salespersons or contract stores are often at fault. Punishments range from mandatory training, to the criminal citation of clerks, to the potential suspension of their businesses licenses for 10 days.

This month, the Idaho EUDL Committee will host meetings to consider how to spend the current funds. They meet next on September 23, at 8:30 p.m. at the Department of Juvenile Corrections, 400 N. 10th St. in Boise.