Underage Drinking on Prom Night Likely Cause of Deadly Utah Crash

A deadly car crash that occurred near Moab, Utah following prom night was likely caused by underage drinking mixed with excessive vehicle speed.

2 teenagers dead and 3 critically injured

Underage Drinking
Photo by: Josh Hallet

In the early morning hours following a prom dance the night before, five teenagers were driving a 2003 Subaru Impreza when the vehicle left the roadway and rolled several times. Three of the teens in the vehicle were ejected; two of those ejected were killed; 16 year old Conner Denney and 14 year old Taylor Bryant. The other teen ejected and the two teens in the car were all flown to area hospitals in critical condition. Police believe that the crash was due to driving at high speeds mixed with underage drinking.

Underage drinking and driving

Underage drinking can be hazardous, especially when inexperienced drivers attempt to operate a vehicle under the influence. The state of Utah has decided that adults who have years of experience driving should still refrain from driving if their blood alcohol limit is over .05%. Teens who drink are known to far surpass this limit. Instead of enjoying a beer with dinner like a responsible adult, teens are more likely to binge drink, making them very drunk in a short period of time.

Alcohol and the teen brain

Photo by: wyinoue
Photo by: wyinoue

Even if a teenager stays away from vehicles when drunk, the alcohol can have damaging effects on their body, especially the growing and maturing brain. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “the adolescent brain may be uniquely sensitive to alcohol’s effects because major changes in brain structure and function occur during this developmental period. ( . . . ) Alcohol exposure during adolescence can have long-lasting effects and may interfere with normal brain functioning during adulthood.”

Other health risks

There are more health risks associated with underage drinking that teens should be aware of such as: potentially fatal alcohol poisoning which can occur from drinking too much too quickly; permanent liver damage from elevated liver enzymes caused by underage drinking; damage to growth hormone production which can alter puberty. Additionally, it is difficult for teens to understand alcoholism should they become addicted and they are less likely to seek help due to them being under the legal age to consume alcohol.

Criminal penalties

Photo by: Sonny Abesamis
Photo by: Sonny Abesamis

Beyond the health risks, there are criminal penalties for those who choose to engage in underage drinking and even far greater penalties if someone is hurt or killed because of a DUI. For teens who are facing criminal charges due to underage drinking or drinking and driving, contact a juvenile defense attorney immediately.

Holiday Parties Are Not the Exception to Minor Consumption Laws

Children and young adults under the age of 21 are not permitted to consume alcohol in Utah, but when the holiday parties roll around, parents are more likely to make exceptions to minor consumption laws.

Momentary lapse in judgement

Minor Consumption
Photo by: Sam Howzit

Several people experience instances around the holidays where their common sense goes on hiatus. Frequently these lapses in judgement arise during holiday shopping when balances of bank accounts are temporarily forgotten. Sometimes a mindless moment can ensue which brings the risk of criminal charges. An example of this is when a parent decides to let their teenager taste champagne or wine at a family party.

Not a drop

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are typical times when parents may loosen up on rules and let their teenagers have “just a sip” of wine or champagne. While not hard liquor, these party drinks are still alcohol and against the law for minor consumption.
Utah Code 32B-4-409 states “it is unlawful for a minor to:

a) Purchase an alcoholic product;
b) Attempt to purchase an alcoholic product;
c) Solicit another person to purchase an alcoholic product;
d) Possess an alcoholic product;
e) Consume an alcoholic product; or
f) Have measurable blood, breath, or urine alcohol concentration in the minor’s body.”

The only exceptions to Utah’s minor consumption laws are for medical reasons for those 18 and older when alcohol is prescribed or for religious purposes. Not only can those under 21 face charges for minor consumption, the adults who furnish the minors with alcohol can face charges too.

Sparkling juice

If giving a minor a glass of bubbly to celebrate the holidays is something that a parent really wants to do, there are substitutions such as sparkling juices that can be used instead. That way the occasion is still marked with a celebratory drink but no laws are broken in the process. For parents who have supplied minors with alcohol and who may be facing charges along with their children, contact a criminal defense attorney who handles adult as well as juvenile cases.

Teen Alcohol Use in Utah

Teen alcohol use in Utah has seen a slight decreased over the last five years, yet the numbers of youth who consume alcoholic beverages regularly is still concerning.

Teen alcohol use

Teen Alcohol Use
Photo by: Incase

The average age for kids to try alcohol is 13 years old, when hormone driven emotions are at an all-time high and the youth are more susceptible to peer pressure. Although a majority of kids state that they do not approve of teen alcohol use, data collected by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism showed that three-fourths of teens will have tried alcohol by the time they are seniors in high school.

Dangers of teen alcohol use

Teen alcohol use can start with one drink and quickly lead into other dangerous behavior such as drunk driving and binge drinking. Over 5,000 teens and young adults under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol related deaths from incidents like alcohol poisoning from binge drinking and drunk driving. Those that survive but continue with underage drinking have a heightened chance of abusing other substances such as illegal drugs, which raises the teen mortality rate as well.

Minor consumption

Photo by: -EMR-
Photo by: -EMR-

Another problem that can arise with teen alcohol use is minor consumption and other alcohol-related criminal charges. Teens who are caught drinking alcohol before the age of 21 risk losing their driving privileges while also being required to attend alcohol education courses. If they drink and drive however, they may face time in juvenile detention or adult jail, especially if an injury to another person occurred due to their driving intoxicated.

Preventing teen drinking

The teenage years are a difficult time when kids may be emotionally unstable while also discovering their newfound independence that comes with age. Educating teens about the harmful effects that alcohol and drugs can have on their developing brains is important as well as teaching them coping techniques for the drama that is so prominent in their lives.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Wealthy Utah Neighborhoods

Parents in Utah with good intentions for their children will search out homesin upscale, wealthy neighborhoods hoping to avoid issues such as drug and alcohol abuse that is thought to be a problem in poorer communities. Unfortunately, often the richer areas are the ones where increased drug and alcohol use is seen.

Woes of the rich kid

Photo by: Chris Potter
Photo by: Chris Potter

Highly desired neighborhoods in Utah typically come at a cost. This is why many of the residents nestled in desired Utah neighborhoods are in a higher income bracket than the average Utahn. When the parents have more money, the youth usually do too. This increase of disposable income makes it easier for children to obtain illegal items and is often a major factor in increased drug and alcohol abuse among rich kids.

Pressures of life

Photo by: Sludge G
Photo by: Sludge G

Although most parents want their kids to excel, children of wealthy, upper class parents often have increased pressure to be successful in all things so their family can “be like the Jones’.” This intensifies the normal burdens that especially teenagers can have including school work, friends, sports, and relationships. Sometimes, drug and alcohol abuse are seen as a way for kids to escape the constant need to be perfect that can be pushed on them by parents and communities.

Identify drug and alcohol abuse

Photo by: Ömer Serdar Ören
Photo by: Ömer Serdar Ören

It may be hard for some parents and communities to admit that there is a problem with drug and alcohol abuse among their youth, but admitting a problem is the first step at resolving it. Reaching out to children who may have drug and alcohol abuse problems is important before they continue on a path that could end with criminal charges. For more information on help for youth with drug or alcohol abuse issues, contact a local rehabilitation facility. If children have already become entangled in the law, seek counsel from an experienced juvenile defense attorney.

Underage Drinking in Utah

While Utah leads the pack on underage drinking prevention, it is not completely exempt from the issue.  According to the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, “Alcohol is and has been the most widely used [illegal] substance by youth in the state.”

Photo by: James Pallinsad
Photo by: James Pallinsad

Underage Drinking Prevention

Educating youth is key in preventing underage drinking.  Parents and teachers need to be diligent in teaching children about the dangers of consuming alcohol, especially at an early age.  There are many educational options available to help those wanting to fight the battle of underage drinking, however children learn more from examples than lectures.  For parents that enjoy an occasional drink, not glorifying alcohol and keeping it inaccessible to minors can help them not being tempted to experiment with it at home.

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Underage drinking is detrimental to youth, as it can damage their growing brains.  Minors are likewise not exempt from addiction and can easily be overcome by alcohol obsession.  There are treatment options available for alcohol abuse, regardless of age.  Contact the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health for minor treatment facilitates in your area.

Legal Consequences

Alcohol is illegal for persons under the age of 21.  Utah code 32B-4-409 states that it is unlawful for a minor to consume alcohol, to buy alcohol, or to even attempt to obtain alcohol through purchasing or acquiring the help of an adult.  The only exception to this is if someone 18 years of age or older is using alcohol for medicinal or religious reasons.  If a minor is found in violation of this law, they automatically lose their drivers’ license for a year and face a class B misdemeanor charge.  If someone you know has been arrested for underage drinking, contact a criminal defense attorney and seek treatment options for alcohol abuse, especially for repeat offenders.