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Editor: W. Patrick Tandy

May, 2004

 

New Video Throws the Book at Teenage Drunk Drivers

By Tom Breihan

Despite the many programs implemented in every high school in America, teenage drunk driving is a problem that refuses to go away. Administrative Law Judge Yvette Diamond, a member of the MSBA Administrative Law Section Council, has come up with a novel idea to help prevent teen drinking and driving: a video that would inform young people of the legal costs and inconveniences that their own bad decisions could cause.

The video is being produced by MSBA’s Administrative Law Section and the Office of Administrative Hearings with technical help from the Office’s Court Information Office and general assistance from the District Court of Maryland. “I had a couple of meetings with Chief Judge [James] Vaughan of the District Court, and he was very encouraged by this and thought that anything we could do would be beneficial and said that he would wholeheartedly support it,” remarks Diamond.

When people under the age of 21 are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, even in small amounts, they are subject to potentially steeper penalties than adults face simply because they are under the drinking age; a first offense can lead to a six-month suspension of driving privileges. “Teenagers basically think they’re immortal, and potentially catastrophic consequences don’t seem to deter them from drinking and driving,” says Diamond. “So we thought it might be effective to take an approach that’s geared to the interests of young drivers and develop a program to educate teens that the decision to drink and drive might have an impact on their daily lives…We hope that if they see that it’s going to have a tremendous impact on their daily lives they might make a different choice.”

Diamond’s idea is to interview teenagers who have been charged with drunken driving and to have them speak about the many ways that their judgment has affected their daily lives. “We really think that kids hearing it from other kids will get through better than hearing it from adults who they might not necessarily relate to,” says Diamond. “We live in this world of reality television where we see people in all different kinds of circumstances talking about their experiences and what they’re going through, and we wanted to tap into that a little bit.”

Schools have already expressed interest in the video, which is beginning its interview stage. “We’re making an effort to get a broad range of people, so that it’s diverse and represents the demographics of the state of Maryland,” explains Diamond. “We’re trying to show that this may happen regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of gender and regardless of race.

“It’s a challenge to think things through in a different way, in a way that would be interesting to [kids], and we hope that we’ll be able to put together something that will be well received and make a difference,” she adds. “We’ve been looking things over for more than a year, trying to get together a format that would interest kids because we don’t want to preach to them, and we think that when they hear it from each other then maybe they’ll be encouraged to make better choices.”

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: May, 2004

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