To deter young people from driving under the influence of alcohol, a Colorado Springs criminal defense lawyer is offering a $1,000 scholarship to students who write an essay admitting their habit of driving “buzzed,” as Jordan Steffen reports for The Denver Post. The lawyer, Christian A. Schwaner, writes on his website that he believes that if more young drivers were forced to admit their buzzed driving habit, they could put an end to it and avoid the “devastating consequences of driving under the influence.”
The “First Step Scholarship” seeks to get young drivers to research the dangers and statistics of drunk driving, in addition to admitting to the behavior, writes Brandon Turkus for Autoblog. Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, says that the scholarship could be “incredibly powerful” in reducing drunk driving, Steffen writes. Waller has introduced legislation in the last two years to make some DUI charges felonies for repeat offenders, but his bills were not passed, Steffen writes, noting that Colorado is one of only four states that do not impose felony penalties for drunk driving.
Steffen writes that the scholarship idea is controversial, with some people fearing it will encourage young people to drink and drive, in order to have an essay to write for the contest. Colorado State Patrol spokesman Trooper Nate Reid “urges caution in creating any incentives for underage drinking,” Steffen writes. And commenters to both Steffen’s and Turkus’s articles weighed in with that same point of view. For example, a commenter writing with the screen name mycommentemail posted the following to Turkus’s article:
Wow this is stupid. What’s the lesson to be learned here? Drive drunk and write an essay: get rewarded with $1000. Do the right thing: get zilch.
Steffen writes, “But Schwaner said he does not think the scholarship rewards or encourages drinking and driving, and in some cases, students applying for the scholarship will also have to admit their habit to their parents.” As of Monday, when Steffen’s article was published, Schooner said he had not received any applications for the scholarship.
To be eligible for a scholarship, applicants must be attending a school of higher education (a college, university, or trade school) in the fall of 2015, and must be a U.S. citizen, according to Schwaner’s website. Applications (which can be downloaded from his website) have to be submitted by May 1, 2015. The winner[s] of the scholarship will be notified on or about August 1.
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