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Minimum Drinking Age Laws Save Lives – Feb. 24, 2014

A study published today in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that laws which make it illegal for individuals to drink under the age of 21 have contributed to lower rates of drunk-driving fatalities among young people. The study resulted from an examination of studies conducted since 2006.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), almost 30 people die per day in the United States due to the negligence of an alcohol-impaired driver.This accounts for roughly one-third of all traffic related deaths. The CDC also notes that young people are most at risk to be involved in alcohol-impaired accidents. The cost of these tragic accidents is enormous and is estimated at more than 51 billion dollars.

All 50 states have had minimum drinking age requirements of 21 since 1988. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has estimated that these laws have saved as many as 900 lives per year during that time.  The teenage drinking and driving rates have dropped 54 percent in the last two decades with the greatest decline between 1982 and 1995 when changes in Federal law pushed states to increase their legal drinking age to 21.

Even though these laws are sometimes broken by teenagers or randomly enforced, the researchers found that they still had a positive effect.  Enforcement of the laws was also found to reduce underage drinking.  According to study researcher William DeJong, of the Boston University School of Public Health: “Clinical trials have found that when college towns put more effort into enforcing the law – and advertise that fact to students, student drinking declines. “  The study concludes that the evidence is clear that there would be consequences if the legal drinking age was lowered.  Enforcement works.


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