The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

June 13, 2010

Underage drinking remains an issue

DANVILLE — Illegal consumption of alcohol continues to be a dangerous and growing habit among people under 21, from statewide to across the nation.

According to statistics from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, almost 700,000 underage youth in Illinois drink each year. Those numbers translate into 13 percent of all alcohol sold in the state of Illinois. The sales total $968 million.

Danville Department of Public Safety Director Larry Thomason said while Danville does not see the binge drinking habits reported oftentimes in underage drinkers, the issue remains important.

While in the past the responsibility of enforcing drinking laws was left to the individual officers, grants in recent years have allowed Danville police to focus on specific areas, such as businesses that sell alcohol.

“People’s (liquor) licenses depend on who they do their business with,” Thomason said. “They certainly don’t want a fine or their license taken away.”

He noted efforts also include informing underage drinkers of the laws and possible penalties.

“By utilizing special details, it places things in the limelight, if you will, so that we curtail a lot of possible dangerous activities for intoxicated individuals,” Thomason said.

According to the Illinois State Police, drivers who are under the age of 21 make up just 10 percent of the licensed drivers in Illinois, but are involved in 17 percent of the fatal crashes involving alcohol.

Under Illinois state law, the first DUI conviction for an underage drinker can net a minimum of two years without driving privileges. That is increased to five years for a second underage DUI conviction and 10 years for a third underage DUI conviction.

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