NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


August 28, 2008

Washington, DC - National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker today expressed his opposition to recent efforts by some college administrators to repeal 21 drinking laws.

"Age 21 drinking laws have been proven time and again effective in preventing deaths and injuries," said Rosenker. "Repealing them is a terrible idea. It would be a national tragedy to turn back the clock and jeopardize the lives of more teens."

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.

Rosenker said, "I hope lawmakers and parents will not be persuaded by unsupported arguments like 18 year olds can vote and buy homes so why should laws prohibit them from drinking? The fact is that voting and buying a home doesn't kill you or kill others. And crashes end up costing society billions of dollars in economic losses, not to mention the incalculable psychological toll.

"It is a statistical fact that this age group is overrepresented in the number of traffic accidents and fatalities because of inexperience and lack of driving skills. Combine that with easier access to alcohol the potential for death on our nation's highways is even greater. I urge those college administrators to reconsider and redouble their efforts to help enforce their State laws, which have prevented countless drunk driving fatalities."

The 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.

NTSB Media Contact:
Keith Holloway
(202) 314-6100



The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.