February 21, 2015

Defense Lawyer Offers Scholarship for Underage Drunk Driving

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In an effort to help teens recognize the dangers of drunk driving, Colorado Springs defense attorney Christian Schwaner recently announced that he will award a $1,000 college scholarship for the best essay that recounts a teen’s experience of driving while intoxicated.

Schwaner states the goal of his First Step Scholarship is to get teenagers to think about the risks associated with drinking and driving. A parent himself, Schwaner is concerned that speeches given by parents often aren’t heard by teens. He believes that having applicants account for their actions, research the risks, and plan ways to avoid future drunk driving may make a difference for students who apply.

However, Schwaner’s idea is drawing fire from some critics. Underage drinking and intoxicated driving are both crimes, and some question whether the scholarship could be seen as rewarding teens for their dangerous and illegal behavior. Furthermore, some wonder if the process of writing an essay will truly get teens to think twice about the consequences of drunk driving. And in another wrinkle, legal experts have cautioned that in applying for the scholarship, teens will admit to criminal offenses without the protection of attorney-client privilege—a move that could have consequences down the road.

Yet, the reality is that teen alcohol misuse and underage drunk driving are serious and widespread. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 10% of high schoolers drink and drive. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people each year and about one-fourth of teen deaths from car crashes involve an underage drunk driver. Given stats like this, supporters of the scholarship program argue that anything that could help is worth a try.

Decreasing the rate of underage drunk driving certainly requires innovative ideas. Do you think a DUI scholarship has the potential to make a difference when it comes to teens and intoxicated driving?


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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