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Senate Passes Madden-Buono Bill To Sanction Underage Drinkers Who Drive

TRENTON – Drivers under 21 who refuse a breath test after police suspect them of drinking even a small amount of alcohol would lose their driving privileges for up to three months under a bill sponsored by Senators Fred Madden and Barbara Buono and approved today in the Senate.

“All drivers, but especially young ones, have to think before they drink because there will be consequences,” said Senator Madden, the former Superintendent of the State Police. “I’ve seen too many lives shattered by young drivers who think they can drink and then drive.”

“As a mother of young drivers, I know a call about a car accident involving your child is one of the greatest fears parents have,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex.

The Madden-Buono measure would create the assumption that drivers under 21 give their implied consent to a breath test by police officers who suspect them of drinking alcohol. Refusing to take the breath test would bring the same penalties as a conviction for an underage driver whose blood alcohol content is found to be at between .01 percent and the threshold for adults to be convicted of drunk driving, .08 percent.

In addition to the loss of driving privileges for between 1 and three months, drivers under 21 would be required to perform between 15 days and 30 days of community service and complete the programs given by the State’s Intoxicated Driver Resource Center or one prescribed by the Motor Vehicle Commission.

The penalties would be in addition to any other penalties assessed for a conviction under the State’s drunk driving statute.

“This is probably as close as we can get to imposing a zero tolerance for underage drinking and driving,” Senator Madden said.

“The best advice, of course, is for young drivers to stay totally away from alcohol, period,” Senator Buono said.

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