Legislation cracking down on underage drinking has cleared another hurdle after winning approval Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary. House Bill 3056, by Sen. Jeff Rabon, D-Hugo, and Rep. Thad Balkman, R-Norman, creates the Prevention of Youth to Access to Alcohol (3.2 Beer) Act.
“In 2004, 14.8 percent of Oklahoma drivers causing alcohol-related accidents were under 21. In 2003, 2,281 Oklahomans under the age of 21 were arrested for DUI—kids 18 and under accounted for about half of those arrests,” said Rabon. “This is a public safety issue that is putting the lives of thousands of Oklahomans at risk.”
HB 3056 would beef up penalties for those knowingly selling or providing alcohol or 3.2 beer to those under 21. Those higher fines would provide more funds for law enforcement entities to enforce laws relating to underage drinking, including traffic-related offenses involving alcohol or other intoxicating substances.
Under HB 3036, minors would also face higher fines and the suspension of their driver’s license. A first offense would result in a fine of up to $300 and/or up to 30 hours of community service and driver’s license suspension for six months. A second offence would include a fine of up to $600, as well as 60 hours of community service or both and a one year driver’s license suspension. A third offense includes a fine of up to $900, up to 90 hours of community service and two years without a driver’s license.
“When we held our interim studies on this issue, it was the teenagers who told us if you really want to make an impression, take away their driver’s license,” Rabon said. “If that’s what it takes to save lives, then it is worth it.”
Those organizations supporting the measure include the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, Oklahoma Prevention Policy Alliance, Oklahoma Nurses Association, Oklahoma Restaurant Association, Oklahoma Grocers Association, Oklahoma Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores Association, Department of Human Services, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
HB 3056 now goes to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration.