Bill aims to reduce underage drinking

The Associated Press

PHOENIX The Governor's Office of Highway Safety is pushing for legislation designed to cut down on underage drinking by tightening controls on the buying of beer kegs.

Russell Pearce, administrator of the office, is drafting a proposed law that would require keg buyers to fill out forms listing their name, address and birth date, and make retailers place identification tags on the kegs.

Pearce said that would make it easier for authorities to prosecute adults who bought kegs for juveniles and youths who bought kegs with phony identification.

The keg deposit would not be returned unless the tags were in place, according to Pearce, who plans to have the keg bill introduced in the Legislature's next session.

Authorities hope a law requiring retailers to record who buys kegs will cut down on underage drinking, especially at weekend parties in remote desert areas.

They said the parties often trash sections of the desert and put drunken teen-agers behind the wheel on the ride home.

Pearce's office also plans to propose a law that would impose a one-year suspen-sion on the driver's license of anyone under age 21 who refused breath analysis.

Lois Alberts of the Arizona Wholesale Beer and Liquor Association said industry members in the state are undecided about whether to oppose a keg crackdown.

Keg-sale accountability has been tried in 10 other states plus the District of Columbia and has been effective, Pearce said.

Larry Black, commander of the lake-patrol district of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, said underage drinking parties in remote desert areas have "gotten out of hand."

"We find these 15- and 16-year-old kids (in the desert) at 3 o'clock in the morning," Black said. "Where are all the parents of these kids?"

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