Awareness of zero tolerance laws in three states

Ferguson, Susan A. / Williams, Allan F.
Journal of Safety Research
Fall 2002

Problem: A prior study indicated that zero tolerance laws differ in their enforceability and likelihood of enforcement, with California's law being easier to enforce than New York's, and New Mexico's being the hardest of all. The question is, do these differences in enforcement affect teenagers' knowledge and perception of these laws?
Method: A telephone survey was conducted to investigate awareness of the laws among 17-20 year olds in these three states and perceptions of enforcement.
Results: Estimated percentages of teenagers who knew of the laws were much higher in New York and California (71% and 65%, respectively) than in New Mexico (34%). Perceptions that police were enforcing the law, that licenses could be suspended, and that penalties were often applied were also lowest in New Mexico.
Impact on industry: The potential of zero tolerance laws will not be realized without better awareness among young people. Full enforcement of the laws accompanied by publicity about the enforcement is recommended. Changes to the laws and their application may encourage enforcement efforts.

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