March 10, 2009

60 Minutes on Lowering the Drinking Age

60 Minutes on Lowering the Drinking Age

Reason Online - Los Angeles,CA,USA

MADD today has veered off into neoprohibition. But there's no question their PR campaign changed attitudes about drunk driving.

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The Real FACTS:

  • Young people in nearly all European countries report drinking in the past 30 days in a greater percentage than in the United States.

  • A greater percentage of young people in a majority of European countries report having five or more drinks in a session.

  • In most European countries, young people have higher intoxication rates than in the United States, and less than a quarter had lower or equivalent rates to the United States.

  • There is evidence that some European youth have higher rates of alcohol-related problems because of their heavy drinking.

  • Every single high-quality study from 1960 to 2000 that shows an effect of the 21 minimum drinking age has shown the same thing – that the 21 minimum drinking age saves lives.  The Centers for Disease Control reviewed 49 studies and found that when you lowering the drinking age, fatalities increased, and when you raise it, they decrease.  It cannot be clearer that 21 has had a positive effect. 

  • The 21 minimum drinking age law only affects alcohol-related fatalities involving people directly affected by a change in the drinking age – those right under or above the age limit.  A 21 minimum drinking age will have no effect on a 55-year-old drunk driver, but law enforcement, a lower BAC legal limit, and the use of designated drivers would.

  • In 1983, the year before the national 21 MDA, there were 2,754 non-alcohol-related traffic fatalities among 16-20 year olds and 4659 alcohol-related traffic fatalities amongst that same age group. By 1989, the year after the last state implemented 21, there were 3603 non-alcohol-related traffic fatalities and 3398 alcohol-related traffic fatalities.  In other words, while alcohol-related fatalities among 16 – 20 year olds dropped by 1,200, non-alcohol-related fatalities increased by over 800. 

Clearly, something else other than safer cars, air bags, and seat belts were helping to save lives, otherwise fatalities would have dropped across the board.  Moreover, from 1983 to 1989, there were only two age groups that had a decrease in fatal drunk driving crashes – 16 to 20 year olds (which decreased 32 percent) and 21 to 25 year olds (which decreased 18 percent).  Every other age group had an increased fatality rate over that same time period.  The only thing that could have possibly caused alcohol-related fatalities among young people to decrease at the same time as overall fatalities, non-alcohol-related fatalities, and alcohol-related fatalities among older people increased is the 21 minimum drinking age.

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