Federal officials are calling for state crackdowns on teenagers who drink and drive, including nighttime curfews, zero-tolerance blood-alcohol standards and quick suspension of driving privileges.
The National Safety Transportation Board, in a report to governors and legislatures, said it is time to update a promising campaign begun in the 1980s to curb underage drinking drivers, said to be involved in fatal accidents every 57 minutes.The board Tuesday urged new state laws, including curfews aimed at keeping young motorists off the highways at night.
The five-member board approved a report that also calls for lowering to zero the legal alcohol blood content for young motorists, and imposing penalties - such as suspending driving privileges - for teens who buy beer, wine or liquor.
Underage drinking and driving remain a lethal combination despite major progress the past 10 years spurred by state laws that made 21 the minimum age for buying alcoholic beverages, the board said.
"Thousands of lives each year could be saved" by tougher laws, said Barry Sweedler, head of the board's office of safety re-com-men-da-tions.
"It's still fairly easy for youths to purchase alcohol" illegally, he said, adding that "binge drinking" among teens is on the rise.
While it lacks any enforcement power, the board claims some notable successes in its role as national scold.