Officers from the Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement, better known as ALE, have taken the unusual step of charging and citing nearly a dozen people for their role in a party that involved underage drinking and ended in the death of a teenager who was riding with an alleged drunk driver.
Now, it’s time for the judicial system to carry the mantle by prosecuting each of these cases to the fullest.
Though the number of teenage traffic deaths has fallen in recent years, Johnston County remains one of the most dangerous places in North Carolina for teenage drivers. The combination of inexperience and alcohol can be a deadly one. Never mind the fact that teenagers aren’t supposed to be drinking in the first place, much less driving after they consume.
There has been a lot of effort put toward educating teens about the importance of safe driving. Lectures, videos and wreck simulations have all been part of the equation. And they have been effective.
Still, some people continue to ignore the warnings and do as they doggone well please. As with the Feb. 16 wreck that killed 18-year-old William Lee Tippett, such self-serving decisions can have awful consequences.
It would be useful and instructive for the court system to impose strict consequences on any of those involved. If other teens see their friends and neighbors serving time in jail or losing their licenses for a long period of time, it may be a strong enough reminder for some students not to drink and drive – or not to drink in the first place.
And, while we realize the courts may have cases on their docket that seem more important, we would suggest that the District Attorney’s office and the judges who deal with these matters have an excellent opportunity to send an important message however they deal with these matters. Harsh penalties imposed against any of those adjudged guilty will let other young people know that the same consequence awaits them if they decide it’s OK to drink, and then drive.