WASHINGTON-It’s been 3 years since La’tina Taylor’s cousin was knocked down and killed by a car. For La’tina, a 17-year-old Mitchellville resident, it was not just “an accident.”
“My cousin was walking down the streets in North Carolina when a car, with a drunk teen-ager behind the wheel, came and hit him,” La’tina said. “He died on the spot. And what was his fault? Nothing.
“Today, many teen-agers in Maryland and across the country continue to drive under the influence of alcohol. I am determined to help fight this,” she said.
That determination drew La’tina and seven other Maryland youths to the Capitol on Tuesday, where they joined hands with teen delegates from every congressional district in the nation in a rally against youth alcohol use.
A recent survey showed that, of the 6,374 motor vehicle deaths 1999 for 15- to 20-year-olds, 2,238 were alcohol related. That was up from 1998, when there were 2,219 alcohol-related deaths of the 6,172 in that age group.
In Maryland, the survey said, alcohol-related deaths of teens fell from 29 of the 86 recorded in 1998 to 25 of the total 117 teen deaths in 1999.
But that was not sufficient progress for the Maryland delegates to Tuesday’s rally, which was part of a summit organized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“It’s certainly not enough,” said Katrina M. Scott, 16, a St. Michael’s resident whose father died while driving under the influence of alcohol, when she was 4 years old.
“I find my strength in my father’s weakness and I hope to help my community with that,” she said. “The policy makers can definitely do more to help eradicate this problem.”
Her remarks came, coincidentally, on the same day that congressional negotiators agreed to require that states lower their drunken-driving limits to a blood-alcohol content level of .08. Maryland is one of the states that currently has the higher level of .10 for drunken driving.
If the bill passes, states that do not lower their drunken-driving limit would face the loss of federal funding.
“It certainly is an encouraging step,” Katrina said of the vote. “But, I hope all states adopt this new law soon and implement it for the sake of those innocent people on the road.”
During the youth summit, the teen delegation presented elected officials with a proposed four-step solution to the underage drinking problem. The steps include requiring a magnetic strip on all drivers’ licenses and identification cards to prevent fake ID cards: increasing the excise tax on alcoholic beverages; launching a federally funded media campaign to fight teen drinking; and prohibiting alcohol ads from airing before 10 p.m.
The other teen delegates from Maryland were Adam Van Eron from Towson; Rachel Henager from Fort Meade; Erika Embrey from Silver Spring; Dan Schointuch from Ellicott City; Carolyn Wiedel from Baltimore; and Emily Tovah Eckland from Bethesda.