Someone is killed by a drunk driver every 45 minutes in this country, according to Mother’s Against Drunk Driving.”Underage drinking is a serious problem in our society,” said Dwayne Cox, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor.Cox holds Alcoholics Anonymous sessions to help people who have been either caught drinking underage or that may abuse alcohol.According to the Municipal Court of Tyler, if someone underage is caught intoxicated there is not a set fine, it is up the judge who may require violators to take an awareness class, which costs $60. The class may also reduce the fine. Along with the class, depending on the severity of the case, violators may be assigned to community service.Classes are conducted one to two times a month for two days, three hours a day, six hours total, at Tyler Municipal Court.”Plenty of parents allow kids to drink on occasion,” said Cox.Most people under 21 receive their alcohol by having someone in their group of friends who is, or looks 21, buy it for them. Or sometimes people may come across a store that doesn’t check I.D.
Although there is not an exact number on how many people get caught drinking underage, if you drink and drive the probability of getting caught will go up, according to Don Martin, Tyler Police Department public information officer.According to Tyler Police Department in the past year there has been two cases of intoxication manslaughter with one suspect being 45 and the victim was 21, in both cases.When it comes to underage drinkers throwing a house party with the parents suppling the alcohol, it is very likely the parents could be arrested instead of the minors, yet it also depends on the circumstances and the amount of alcohol provided.”Even with having three colleges, most people do most of their drinking in clubs, but overall it’s not out of control,” said Martin.If caught supplying to minor it would be a Class A misdemeanor and the fine will not exceed $4,000 and a maximum confinement of a year, if not both according to Texas Laws.”We don’t catch people who supply to minors as often as we like,” said Martin.Over the past 10 years, alcohol awareness class attendees have became older. The crowd used to be high school and college students, now it’s mostly college. There is a guaranteed 10 students a month from University Pines Apartments itself.Classes range from 15-25 people a month plus an extra five because of drinking underage. By attending a session, students will be educated about how alcohol attracts younger people, and how it affects the body. Laws about drinking in Texas, such as the open container law, as well as others that apply to minors that drink are also discussed.”There’s a reason why 21 and up is the drinking age, especially since thinking and judgment is a huge factor,” said Cox.If caught intoxicated the class is mandatory by law. “There is no doubt that it has a positive effect on people. It has helped, but is still a major problem. It’s a little better but not much,” said Cox.Over 25 percent that have attended the class are repeat offenders and have trouble recovering.”Even though I’m under 21, I honestly am not sure how I receive my alcohol. I usually just get it when students throw parties,” said Lauren Walker, a sophomore at T.J.C.Although Walker does not drink often she first tried alcohol at the age of 16, and may only drink on occasion.”I used to think it was cool to drink because it was a way to have fun, especially if you’re in a group,” said Walker.Walker used to drink every couple of months, but has recently had a bad experience and doesn’t plan on drinking again anytime soon.”I realized that you don’t have to drink to have fun,” said Walker.For more information about Alcohol Awareness classes, contact Tyler Municipal Court at (903) 531-1266 or Don Martin at (903) 531-1072.