NSC Calls on University Presidents to Fight Underage Drinking

Recently, the National Safety Council reported that more than 100 college and university presidents have signed on to a "misguided initiative" that uses deliberately misleading information to confuse the public on the effectiveness of the age 21 law for alcoholic beverages. According to NSC, the initiative is led by another organization with a political agenda of lowering the drinking age in the name of reducing college binge drinking.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) National President Laura Dean-Mooney said, "Underage and binge drinking is a tough problem and we welcome an honest discussion about how to address this challenge, but that discussion must honor the science behind the 21 law, which unequivocally shows that the 21 law has reduced drunk driving and underage and binge drinking."

MADD, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS); the American Medical Association (AMA); National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB); Governors Highway Safety Association; other science, medical, and public health organizations; and all members of the Support 21 Coalition are calling on these college and university presidents to remove their names from this list and urge them to work with the public health community and law enforcement on real solutions to underage and binge drinking. Additionally, MADD is asking the public to write letters to their governors and college presidents to support the 21 law and ask those on the initiative list to remove their names.

"As the mother of a daughter who is close to entering college, it is deeply disappointing to me that many of our educational leaders would support an initiative without doing their homework on the underlying research and science," Dean-Mooney said. "Parents should think twice before sending their teens to these colleges or any others that have waved the white flag on underage and binge drinking policies."

Top science, medical and public health experts as well as congressional and state leaders agree on the effectiveness of the 21 minimum drinking age law in saving lives.

An "Alcohol Alert" that was released in January 2006 (No. 67) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, warns against lowering the minimum drinking age, stating, "Just how much the legal drinking age relates to drinking-related crashes is shown by a recent study in New Zealand. Six years ago that country lowered its minimum legal drinking age to 18. Since then, alcohol-related crashes have risen 12 percent among 18- to 19-year-olds and 14 percent among 15- to 17-year-olds. Clearly a higher minimum drinking age can help to reduce crashes and save lives, especially in very young drivers."

NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said, "Age 21 drinking laws are effective in preventing deaths and injuries. Repealing them is a terrible idea. It would be a national tragedy to turn back the clock and jeopardize the lives of more teens."

According to a new survey recently released by Nationwide Insurance, 78 percent of adults support 21 as the minimum drinking age and 72 percent believe lowering the drinking age would make alcohol more accessible to youth.

"While advocates argue a lower drinking age will curb teen binge drinking, our survey shows only 14 percent of Americans agree and 47 percent believe it will actually make a huge problem worse," said Bill Windsor, Associate Vice President of Safety for Nationwide. "Americans feel so strongly about teen binge drinking more than half say they are less likely to vote for a politician who supports lowering the legal limit or to send their child to a known 'party school.'"

Through 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that age 21 laws prevented more than 25,000 deaths. In addition, there was a significant decline in the proportion of fatally injured teen drivers with a positive blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In 1982, before most of the age 21 laws were enacted, 56 percent of teen drivers killed in traffic crashes had an illegal BAC. By 2006, that figure was 25 percent--a decline of 31 percentage points. In comparison, 60 percent of highway fatalities were alcohol-related in 1982. While that figure has fallen to 41 percent of highway fatalities as of 2006, that is a decline of only 19 percent points.

NTSB has a long record of advocating hundreds of highway safety recommendations. Seven of those recommendations, which dealt with age 21 laws, were on the agency's "Most Wanted Listed" and removed because the states enacted them. The recommendations urged states to close age 21 loopholes, increase enforcement and education, impose sanctions, and require zero alcohol tolerance.

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