August 21, 2008

Response to the Amethyst Initiative: Congressional, Public Health and Safety Leaders Support the 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age

The 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age Law has saved an estimated 1,000 lives per year over the last 24 years on and off the roadways and has helped reduce binge drinking (NHTSA, 2008; Smith, Branas and Miller, 1999). That is why MADD is gravely disappointed in the decision of more than 120 college and university presidents who have chosen to sign on to the Amethyst Initiative. It is apparent that the goal of this initiative, guided by Choose Responsibility, is to put pressure on elected officials to lower the minimum drinking age of 21.

Underage drinking, particularly in the university setting, is a serious problem that requires serious reflection. But we should examine this problem without jeopardizing a law that has saved nearly 25,000 lives since going into effect.

We are not alone in our concern our our support of the 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age:

"As a three-time university president, I can tell you that losing a student to an alcohol-related tragedy is one of the hardest and most heart-rending experiences imaginable. Signing this initiative does serious harm to the education and enforcement efforts on our campuses and ultimately endangers young lives even more. I ask every higher education leader who has signed to reconsider. I am old enough to remember life on our campuses before the 21 year drinking rule. It was horrible." – University of Miami President and former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala

"Drunk driving needlessly kills thousands of young people every year. That’s why I wrote a law to create a national drinking age of 21 and why we fight so hard to reduce drunk driving and save lives on our roads. This small minority of college administrators wants to undo years of success – that defies common sense. We need to do all we can to protect the national drinking age – a law that saves the lives of drivers, passengers and pedestrians across the country each year.” Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)

"The traffic safety and public health benefits of the 21 minimum drinking age law have been well established, with the Department of Transportation estimating nearly 1,000 lives saved each year as a result. I strongly support this lifesaving law, and will not consider any effort to repeal or weaken it in any way.” – Congressman James L. Oberstar (D-MN), Chairman, U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

“Countless lives have been saved since Congress raised the national minimum drinking age to 21 in 1984. We need to maintain this important law and the life-saving protection it gives our teens and others on the roads.” – U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-LA), a member of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works

"It is impossible to ignore the scientific evidence demonstrating the dangers of underage drinking. A young adult’s brain is a work in progress, marked by significant development in areas of the brain responsible for learning, memory, complex thinking, planning, inhibition and emotional regulation. If we lower the age at which young adults are legally allowed to purchase alcohol, we are lowering the age of those who have easy access to alcohol and shifting responsibility to high school educators. The science simply does not support lowering the drinking age.” – Ronald M. Davis, Immediate Past President of the American Medical Association

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