MADD forms Support 21 coalition

At a press conference today at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Conference Center in Washington, DC, MADD joined with the IIHS, NTSB, and the AMA to announce their collective support for maintaining Legal Age 21.

Why was this press conference called? Were they there to convey new research findings?  Our questions exactly, perhaps phrased best by a CBS radio host who called us asking, “do they actually have something new to say?”

In a nutshell, no.  The statistics and arguments are the same: emphasis on traffic fatalities and the host of negative consequences that result from drinking by people 21 and younger.  The new Support 21 coalition focuses the “science” above all else, but our research and experience tells us that there is much more to the story.  Many of the same papers they cite as support for maintaining the status quo tell us that more that 1,000 lives of 18-24 year-olds are being lost off the highways each year, and that that death toll has been increasing with each passing year.  That statistic as well as the findings from recent CDC studies and the College Alcohol Study (Harvard School of Public Health) would tell us that the increase in loss of young life off the highways is more than likely linked to the astonishing increase in binge drinking rates and negative consequences experienced by young people.  We must acknowledge that beyond the science, we are experiencing a cultural shift, marked clearly by the intensification of excessive alcohol consumption among adolescents and young adults.  Drinking to intoxication is the norm for 18-20 year-olds and, unfortunately, is fast becoming the standard for younger teens as well.  Beyond discussing the trends, the numbers, and the consequences, we need to question and address the culture that is encouraging that reckless and excessive behavior.

We invite Adrian Lund, director of IIHS, to tell us exactly how our “pre-scientific” and “unsubstantiated” proposal is any different from Legal Age 21.  If the drinking age were based on science alone, there would be blanket prohibition, or as our colleague Scott Guenther has said “mandatory injections of alcohol for men between the ages of 50 and 65.”  Why don’t we pursue either of those noble, science-based policy changes?  Because we (and MADD, and IIHS, and the American public…) know that such changes are unrealistic and unworkable in practice.  Alcohol plays a complex role in our society and its regulation needs to be addressed through discussions that allow for that complexity.  Over 90% of individuals who drink will consume their first alcohol well before the age of 21.  Alcohol is a reality in the lives of young Americans, and public policy needs to both acknowledge that reality and create the safest possible environment for it to occur.

Stay tuned for more…the debate is heating up.  Incidentally, so is the weather in DC–time to get back to Vermont!

10 Responses to “MADD forms Support 21 coalition”

  1. BlognDog Says:

    MADD is making the same mistake it made 20 years ago when it initiated this mess. The problem is drinking AND driving. But for some reason, MADD has made the arbitrary decision that the solution to the problem is to get rid of the drinking, with no efforts to do something about the driving. Unlike driving, drinking does not add to global warming, congestion, urban sprawl, road rage, wildlife habitat destruction and a whole host of other problems. When MADD starts teaming up with environmental organisations to do things like expand wildlife habitats, expand bicycle lane networks, block the opening of new WalMarts, fund new public transportation initiatives, etc., then I will begin to take them seriously as an organisation opposed to drinking AND driving. At present, they are just another prohibitionist organisation trying to masquerade as a public safety organisation.

  2. Steven Says:

    Amen, BlognDog!

  3. Simon Says:

    MADD members should be up front about their real agenda: they do not hate drunk driving, they hate alcohol and want to restrict it as much as possible. It is dishonest of them to hide behind the facade of drivers’ safety.

  4. Chris Says:

    Gotta love politics. I think most issues deal more with the Christian right and what it sees as right and wrong and less to do with actual statistics. With other nations as proof that the drinking age of 18 (or even 16 in some situations) does not necessarily equal more problems with drinking and driving they continue to cling to it. If anyone else has an explanation of such a denail of facts please inform me. I would like to believe people are logical beings rather than the superstitious and backwards people that they seem to be.

  5. Kevo Says:

    I have always wondered the same thing about MADD, they just seem to hate alcohol, but i never hear them advocating public transit, walking distance places to drink. likewise, i believe they contribute to the problem when they go tell kids that alcohol is evil. in the mind of 16 year old, ‘if one beer is evil, then i might as well drink the whole 6 pack.’

    they should advocate responsible drinking, and ways to keep people off the road.

  6. Exmilitary Says:

    Drinking age in Italy is 14. Italy recently burst into flames and sank into the Ocean. Well, they will soon enough, unless they raise the drinking age to 21.

    Drinking age for the military overseas is 18. Your brain is developed enough to sign a contract that can/will send you to Iraq at 18. There’s a good chance you’ll die there. MADD needs to protest the under 21 policy for Iraq.

    Hahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahaha You have no powers here, Gandalf the Grey

  7. Why the drinking age should be 18 - General Discussion Says:

    […] a fully formed brain, set the age at 25, not 21. 6) If saving lives is paramount, why not "mandatory injections of alcohol for men between the ages of 50 and 65"? Good […]

  8. Gink Says:

    I’m from Canada and have, legally, been able to imbibe on a bevvy or two for three years now. I have not once gotten behind the wheel while drunk. I have spent countless hours walking in the bitter cold, taking unreliable transit and spending ridiculous amounts of money on cabs. I may not be a responsible drinker but I’m damn sure of driving. Maybe it’s not just youth that jump behind the wheel?

  9. Lance Says:

    It’a a no-brainer. Old enough to get killed in Irag, drive a tank, drop bombs on people your damn sure old enogh to drink a fricken beer. Wake the F–k up MADD !

  10. Frank Says:

    People suffer brain damage in combat all the time from head trauma. If you’re old enough to risk damaging your brain with the military you’re old enough to risk damaging your brain with alcohol. It’s your brain. And obviously moderate use doesn’t significantly impair brain development or Europe where traditionally people start having a little wine at dinner under adult supervision in their early teens would be full of idiots and would be a bunch of third world countries rather than developed, modern nations.

    Why not lower the drinking age to 18 but make it illegal to drive with even the smallest amount of alcohol in your body between 18 and 20, or even at any age? If MADD spent as much political capital trying to lower the legal limit to 0 across the board maybe we’d see less drunk driving accidents. People drink and drive because they think they’re not that drunk and would pass a breathylyzer test. If we tell them it doesn’t matter, that even a small amount will get them arrested they will find other ways to get home. That’s how it is in Europe or at least very low (0.01 or 0.02 which actually tend to be the cut off point used to prosecute under 21 year olds for drunk driving). I think if this option was presented in public debate more often more people would support lowering the legal age on the condition that the legal limit, at least for 18-20 year olds is 0 or near-0.