A state law passed after five Illinois teenagers died in an alcohol-related car crash last year has led to driver’s-license suspensions for more than 3,000 underage drinkers this year, but experts give it mixed reviews because of disparities in enforcement, says the Chicago Tribune. Many police departments ignore the law, bypass it or use it only to penalize repeat offenders because of disagreement over whether drinking offenses should be tied to driving privileges. Those who support the so-called use-lose law argue that inconsistent enforcement compounds the mixed message parents give teens when they downplay risks.
Lake County leads the state in license suspensions with 370 from Jan. 1 through Oct. 15. Only 60 license suspensions were reported in Cook County. The law says people under age 21 will lose their driving privileges if they are found guilty or granted court supervision for violating laws regarding consumption, possession or purchase of alcohol “regardless of whether a vehicle was involved.” The suspension is three months for first offenders. But in Highland Park, for instance, where 13 students were cited for underage drinking on homecoming after their limousine driver reported them to police, officials say they prefer to handle their teenagers in-house by sending first-time offenders to a local administrative hearing, where the teens pay a fine to the city but avoid the state penalty.