Curbing Underage Drinking

This week, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio joined together with members from the Talbot County Blue Ribbon Commission and the Talbot Partnership to ask the legislature for tougher penalties on underage drinking. House Bill 251, which was introduced by Haddaway, would mandate that underage youth purchasing alcohol with a false identification would receive a mandatory, one year suspension of their driver’s license. Current law allows a court to order the suspension for only six months. The bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee, where Haddaway and Gary Pierce of the Talbot Partnership made the case that underage drinking is still a problem in the State of Maryland, particularly in rural areas. Haddaway cited statistics that indicate that the Eastern Shore has the highest number of adolescents in treatment for alcohol abuse, the highest incidents of alcohol-related suspensions from school, more DUI arrests and more youth liquor law violations than any other jurisdiction. She also referenced the fact that underage drinking costs the state over $1.2 billion a year in medical costs, lost time from work and pain and suffering expenses. “Changing societal acceptance of underage drinking is an important step toward prevention,” she said to the members of the Judiciary Committee. “This legislation would send a strong message that Maryland is serious about preventing underage drinking.”