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Looking up at a group of teens in a huddleUnderage Drinking

In response to the ongoing debate about the 21 Minimum Drinking Age Law, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has formed a Support 21 coalition to educate the public about the scientific research behind the underage drinking law and how it saves lives. In addition to GHSA and MADD, other groups in support of the 21 drinking age law include the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

As stated in GHSA's Highway Safety Policy & Priorities, "GHSA supports the uniform minimum drinking age of 21 and urges that such laws prohibit the purchase, possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages by those under 21, the sale or provision of alcohol to minors by adults and underage drinking in private clubs and establishments." GHSA is committed to seeing that the drinking age is not lowered.

According to the IIHS, “When the drinking age was raised, crashes went down almost 30 percent. It's irresponsible to assert that untested educational programs could alter these results. If we allow states to lower the drinking age again, more teens will drink and drive and more will die."

Download IIHS Research Findings pdf icon [916 KB, 8 pgs.]

NHTSA estimates nearly 25,000 teen traffic deaths have been prevented by age-21 laws. The percentage of teen drivers killed in traffic crashes with a BAC above the legal limit has dropped from 56 percent in 1982 to 23 percent in 2005.

For more information, visit MADD's website, where you will find:

GHSA Policy

Excerpted from GHSA's Highway Safety Policies & Priorities PDF icon [115 KB, 27 pgs.]

E. Impaired Driving

E.18 Underage Drinking
GHSA shares the national concern about underage drinking and joins other national organizations in addressing this pervasive problem comprehensively.

With respect to underage access to alcohol, GHSA encourages states to support a systematic approach to reducing access and availability through frequent compliance checks and programs such as Cops in Shops which are directed at the sale, purchase, and consumption of alcohol by persons under the age of 21. Sellers of alcohol to underage persons should face substantial fines and the suspension of the business or liquor license and states should consider graduated penalties which increase with each conviction. GHSA strongly opposes the internet sale and direct shipment of alcoholic beverages to underage youth and urges that steps be taken to penalize sellers who engage in such practices.

With respect to underage public policy initiatives, GHSA supports the continuation of state laws that specify zero alcohol use for drivers under age 21. GHSA strongly supports the continuation of uniform minimum drinking age of 21 and urges that such laws prohibit the purchase, possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages by those under 21, the sale or provision of alcohol to minors by adults and underage drinking in private clubs and establishments. GHSA supports beer keg registration laws that require the identity of the purchaser to be recorded and encourages states to enact such laws.

GHSA also urges states to enact or strengthen their dram shop liability laws so that commercial establishments can be held liable if they sold or provided alcohol to a minor who subsequently caused injury. States also should enact social host laws that hold parents and guardians liable for underage drinking in their house and anti happy hour laws that eliminate drink specials in which alcohol is rapidly consumed over a short period.

With respect to underage enforcement, GHSA supports programs to enforce underage drinking laws (such as shoulder tap and controlled dispersal programs) and programs that facilitate underage enforcement (such as juvenile holdover programs and teen courts). GHSA urges states and localities to use nuisance and loitering laws as a means of discouraging youth from congregating outside alcohol outlets in order to solicit adults to purchase alcohol. GHSA encourages states to strengthen efforts to prevent and detect the use of false identification by minors in order to purchase alcohol. States are also encouraged to publicize any underage drinking law that is enacted.

With respect to community interventions, GHSA urges communities to assess the underage drinking problem in their community and adopt evidence-based, effective countermeasures. NHTSA and other federal agencies should offer technical assistance to communities and encourage community assessments through materials and processes developed by GHSA and others.

With respect to college programs, colleges and universities should adopt evidence-based, comprehensive approaches to prevent underage drinking. These could include alcohol screening, educational strategies combined with other interventions, enforcement, policies that limit access to alcohol for those under 21 (particularly on campus or in the vicinity of the college or university), and social norming. NHTSA, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and other federal agencies should continue to evaluate college programs to determine which are effective and which are not.

With respect to program coordination, GHSA urges that federal underage drinking programs be coordinated through an interagency task force and that one federal agency (e.g. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) should be the designated lead agency.  GHSA also urges that a federal clearinghouse on underage drinking (including drinking and driving) be established so that resources about the issue can be accessed from a single federal point of contact. The lead agency should coordinate efforts to evaluate underage interventions and should make such information widely available to states and localities and through the clearinghouse. The lead agency should also issue an annual report to Congress on the extent of underage drinking and the progress that is being made to combat this problem.

With respect to resources, GHSA urges that additional federal resources should be devoted to addressing the problem of underage drinking (and drinking and driving) in a comprehensive manner.