Northwest NEWS

September 13, 1999


Guest Editorial

'You Don't Have to Be Buzzed to Be Busted'

by John Moffat, Director, Governor's Highway Safety Representative, Washington Traffic Safety Commission

   Based on feedback from Washington teens and 20-year-olds, young adults are not worried about getting "busted" for drinking and driving after just one beer, much less injuring or killing someone or themselves in a car crash.

   If you are under 21 or are the parent of a teen, you need to know about Washington's new Zero Tolerance underage drinking and driving laws. A new statewide campaign has been launched telling young adults under 21 that "You Don't Have to Be Buzzed to Be Busted."

   Alcohol-impaired driving is a major problem nationwide and in Washington state. It is our hope that the campaign will inform youth, who often consider themselves invincible and think "it could never happen to me," that the penalties for underage drinking and driving are severe.

   Washington state statistics report that 2,369 people under 21 years of age were stopped for drinking and driving in 1998. Over 32 percent of all deaths for young people aged 15 to 20 result from car crashes. In 1996, collisions involving people age 24 and younger were responsible for 101 fatalities and 2,931 injuries in Washington state.

   Under Washington state's Zero Tolerance underage drinking and driving laws, drivers under age 21 with a blood alcohol level of .02-.07 percent will lose their licenses for 90 days. For most people, it only takes one drink to get to .02 percent, and for some, it takes even less. Other consequences include increased insurance costs, legal fees, court costs, and fines.

   As part of an overall program to reduce underage drinking and driving in Washington state, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) and Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse (DASA), have launched a unique statewide media campaign aimed at high school and college students under age 21 who drink.

   Based on results of focus groups conducted with high school and college students in eastern and western Washington, a campaign slogan was selected that would best resonate with Washington youth, and media materials were developed to promote the new message: "You Don't Have to Be Buzzed to Be Busted."

   As students head back to school excited about back-to-school parties, football season, and homecoming, they'll be hearing radio ads that feature real teens telling true stories about the consequence of underage drinking and driving. Outdoor advertising and in-school elements begin in September, as well.

   If you are interested in more information about Washington's new underage drinking and driving laws, please call the WTSC at 1-800-822-1067. For free alcohol and other drug treatment information and referrals, call the Alcohol/Drug Helpline at 1-800-562-1240.

   Teens can call the Teenline at (206) 722-4222, and a website for teens is located at