[Law] Battling the teenage bottle

Adults who give booze to kids can be civilly liable

Joshua Longobardy

Teens drink; teens drive.

People are responding. Nevada Senate Bill 7, enacted last week, holds responsible the parents and guardians who furnish teens with alcohol that leads to automobile accidents. The new law opens them to civil litigation, to which they had been immune before. Moreover, a campaign backed by the Federal Trade Commission, called “We Don’t Serve Teens,” steamrolled through Nevada on the week of September 10-15, picking up the support of the attorney general’s office, Metro and more than 500 liquor stores and local businesses.

And while the numbers seem to show that the response is warranted—the FTC reports that, nationally, 3,000 teens die each year in car accidents involving alcohol, that some 30 percent of teens say they receive their booze from their parents and another 35 percent say they receive it from an older friend, that 93 percent of high-school seniors claim they can easily access alcohol; and locally, stats show there have so far this year been 139 teen automobile accidents involving alcohol in Nevada—it is the tragic stories that hit hardest.

In the short time between the campaign and the enactment of SB 7, one calamitous accident on Charleston Boulevard and Arden Street ended in the critical injuries of two teenage girls and the arrest of the 18-year-old drunk driver who was at fault. A half-hour later, across town, at Warm Springs and Bermuda Roads, a drunk teenage driver caused an accident that resulted in a moderate injury to his teenage passenger and a traumatic injury to himself.

To everyone’s good fortune, no one was killed. This time.

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