Why Is ‘Affluenza’ Enough To Excuse Teen Drinking and Driving?

drinking and drivingIn June of 2013, 16-year-old Ethan Couch was speeding on a Texas road with seven passengers in his Ford F-30 when he hit and killed 4 pedestrians. During the crash two of his 15-year-old passengers were ejected from the vehicle and sustained severe injuries. At the time of the crash Couch was found to be drinking and driving, with a blood alcohol level that was three times the legal limit.

When legal proceedings began in December, the teen’s lawyers used the defense of ‘Affluenza.’ Affluenza is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a legitimate illness, but is considered to be reckless, immature behavior that’s caused by an affluent upbringing. Although the teen did plead guilty to manslaughter, he was only given 10 years probation for the 4 deaths and ordered to go to rehabilitation. His next round of sentencing for the two teens wounded in the accident also resulted in him avoiding jail time and being sent to a secure rehabilitation facility.

It doesn’t seem possible that someone who could kill 4 people and seriously injure 2 others could avoid jail time not once but twice, but that’s exactly what Ethan Couch did. In the process, both he and the legal system that allowed him to successfully use the Affluenza defense have set a horrible example for teen drinking and teen drivers everywhere.

Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of teen fatalities, and the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has published statistics showing that alcohol is a factor in 50% of fatal teen crashes. Now that Ethan Couch has basically been given a slap on the wrist for teen drinking and driving causing death, how many other affluent teens will follow in his footsteps? How many teens will see that there may be no consequences to drinking and driving if they are from a wealthy family?

Drinking and driving related fatalities are completely preventable. No matter if you’re rich or poor, young or old, you should make the choice to never drink and drive.