NTSB Warns Against Repealing, Weakening Age 21 Drinking Laws

Responding to a recent cover story in Parade magazine that questioned age 21 drinking laws and quoted academics and others that say they should be repealed, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker warned on Aug. 14 that lowering the drinking age jeopardizes highway safety and would increase already unacceptably high teen highway deaths.

"Why would we repeal or weaken laws that save lives?" Rosenker asked. "It doesn't make sense."

Rosenker cited data through 2005 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that estimates that nearly 25,000 teen traffic deaths have been prevented by age 21 laws. In 1982, 56 percent of teen drivers killed in traffic crashes had a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit. By 2005, that figure was 23 percent.

"Even with these laws alcohol is still the leading cause of death among teenagers in highway crashes. The data show that when teens drink and drive they are highly unlikely to use seat belts. These are the facts and it would be a serious mistake and a national tragedy to weaken existing drinking age laws," Rosenker said.

Instead, he emphasized, "We need stricter enforcement of age 21 laws and early intervention so young people don't develop a life-long problem with alcohol. These measures need to take place in the academic environment as well as in society at large. We all need to take responsibility for our actions."

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