New underage drinking law, penalties to take effect

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - On Friday, a new law with stiffer penalties for drinking and driving underage will take effect. It is something that parents are excited to hear. But some caution that some of the new penalties may not stop underage drinking and driving.

With two teens soon to be behind the wheel, mom Priscilla Trice appreciates this move by lawmakers. "Best thing that could have happened."

She's tired of hearing about checkpoints, turning up teens who are driving drunk. In fact-- last year alone -- more than 1,000 people under 21 were convicted of drunk driving in Virginia. Most of them were between 18 and 20 years old.

"They drink and they don't know what it means to get behind the steering wheel," adds Trice.

Leaders say the new law goes hand-in-hand with the state's zero tolerance stance against underage drinking and driving. Even a small amount of alcohol can land drivers in hot water.

We're talking stiffer penalties, including losing your license for a year, and either a minimum of a $500 fine or 50 hours of community service.

Martha Meade is with AAA and she said "anything that can serve as a deterrent of them even thinking to get in the car when drinking or when someone else has been drinking is a great thing."

Some people caution the fine won't deter anyone from driving drunk. But they have a different opinion on the new community service consequence. "Anything to get our teenagers involved helping others is wonderful," says Dorothy Jensen.

Teen driver Kelsey Watson agrees. She doesn't drink and drive, but thinks community service could be the way to make sure her friends follow her lead.

"It's more than a fine, parents will pay a fine. They have a consequence to it. They have to do the work," says Kelsey.

Work that the state hopes you'll avoid by making the decision not to drink underage.

The current underage drinking law has penalties that include a loss of license for six months and a fine of no more than $500.

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