Thank you, Wendy. I am pleased to represent the National Transportation Safety Board and to join you, Senator Dole, and Eric Ridenour at this special anniversary!
We are here today to recognize the enormous effect that the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 has had in reducing teen injuries and fatalities from alcohol-related crashes. Today’s events mark the kind of strong cooperative effort that can make a difference, a cooperative effort between legislators like Senators Dole and Lautenberg, organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, corporations like the Chrysler Group, as well as government, law enforcement, parents, and teens.
MADD has led and continues to lead this fight against underage drinking, educating legislators and parents alike about the problem and highlighting measures that we can take to address it. Through programs, like the Backstage Pass Tour, MADD educates our youth, ultimately the best weapon we have, because it is our youth have to make the decision not to drink and not to get behind the wheel if they do! Thank you Wendy, and MADD, for your tireless efforts to keep children safe!
Corporations like the Chrysler Group also provide much-needed tools. Through the Road Ready Teens program, Chrysler educates parents about the risks of teen driving and enables teens to develop important driving skills. Chrysler’s latest involvement with MADD, the “21 Turns 21” initiative, will allow MADD to expand its audience and ensure that more parents, teens, law enforcement, and educators get the message. I want to recognize the Chrysler Group, which has been a long-standing friend to highway safety!
When all this started in the early 1980s, drivers under age 21 were disproportionately involved in alcohol-related crashes. An overwhelmingly high percentage of fatally injured teen drivers had alcohol in their system.
Every day, the nation was experiencing nearly 14 deaths and 360 injuries among teens between the ages of 16 and 21.
In 1982, the Safety Board, recommended that States raise the minimum legal age for drinking or purchasing alcohol to 21-years-old. The Safety Board recognized that immaturity, inexperience, and alcohol combine to be a fatal mixture! We watched as more crashes occurred when the legal drinking age was lowered; we knew that raising the legal drinking age back to 21 would help reduce these tragedies.
With the enactment of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, all the pieces were in place to address the problem of teen alcohol-related fatalities. Senators Dole and Lautenberg and Mothers Against Drunk Driving were instrumental in getting this legislation passed! Senator Lautenberg carried this legislation in Congress. Senator Dole, as Secretary of Transportation, carried this legislation to the States, and even to the Supreme Court! And MADD never let us forget that this is not a nameless, faceless tragedy!
All of us have worked really hard since 1984, and we’ve come a long way! But more work remains! Motor vehicle crashes still remain the leading cause of death for those between 16 and 21. And alcohol continues to play a role in far too many crashes. Countless dead and injured teens are the sad monument to underage drinking and driving!
The Safety Board remains committed to the fight against underage drinking! And we will continue to partner with MADD, the Chrysler Group, AAA, and the National Safety Council, just to name a few. We will save lives and reduce injuries! We will ensure that more children reach their 21 st birthday.
Thank you, Wendy and MADD. Thank you Eric and the Chrysler Group. And thank you to all those who work tirelessly to make our roads safer!