NTSB Acting Chairman Addresses Underage Drinking and Driving Issues

National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker recently discussed the issue of underage drinking emphasizing the need to maintain the Age 21 law before the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) National Symposium on Underage Drinking, in Washington, DC, Rosenker noted that each year, there are more than 40,000 highway fatalities, more than any other mode of transportation.

Of that number, more than 40 percent of highway fatalities involve alcohol. For that reason, NTSB has had a long history of recommending action to reduce alcohol-related fatalities, injuries, and crashes.

"We have made a lot of progress at the Federal, State, and local level," said Rosenker. "However, we have been stuck too long where the number and percent of alcohol-related fatalities has not declined and there is much work to be done."

NTSB has issued hundreds of highway safety recommendations. Seven of those recommendations, which dealt with age 21 laws, were on the agency's Most Wanted List and removed because the States accomplished many aspects of our recommendations. The recommendations urged States to close age 21 loopholes, increase enforcement and education, impose sanctions and require zero alcohol tolerance.

Rosenker noted that the laws, their associated sanctions, and enforcement of the laws are imperfect. Loopholes in minimum drinking age laws remain. "We need to close the remaining loopholes in the State laws, increase enforcement, and establish programs so that our teenagers cannot continue to obtain alcohol and thus drink and drive, he said. "The National Transportation Safety Board will continue to fight for effective minimum drinking age laws, enforcement, and sanctions. And we will reject misguided attempts to eliminate the current minimum drinking age laws."

The complete text of Rosenker's speech may be obtained at www.ntsb.gov/speeches/rosenker/mvr081107.html.

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