NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


November 7, 2008

Washington, D.C. - National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker today discussed the issue of underage drinking emphasizing the need to maintain the Age 21 law.       

In his speech before the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) National Symposium on Underage Drinking, in Washington, DC, Rosenker noted that each year, there are over 40,000 highway fatalities, more than any other mode of transportation.  Of that number, more than 40% of highway fatalities involve alcohol.  For that reason, the Safety Board 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." The NTSB has a long record of advocating highway safety and 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.

The change in the legal minimum drinking age has been one of the most extensively studied policy changes in our transportation history.  All of the rigorously drawn and peer-reviewed studies have essentially come to the same conclusion; lowering the legal drinking age increases both alcohol consumption and alcohol-related fatalities among young drivers, and raising the drinking age reduces consumption and fatalities.

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. 

"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," Rosenker emphasized.

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

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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.