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GHSA News Release

August 19, 2008

Contact: Jonathan Adkins

State Highway Safety Agencies: Repealing 21 Drinking Age Law a Giant Step Backward

Statement for Attribution to Christopher J. Murphy, Chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association

WASHINGTON, D.C.—GHSA strongly supports the 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA), and we are dismayed that some college and university presidents have signed onto an initiative aimed at repealing this life-saving law. Both research and the hands-on experience of state highway safety agencies indicate that this law has saved countless lives. Underage drinking remains a serious problem that needs to be addressed, but lowering the drinking age would be a gigantic step backward for highway safety.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the 21 MLDA has reduced traffic fatalities involving drivers 18 to 20 years old by 13 percent and saves approximately 900 lives a year.

Studies by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicate that delaying the initiation of drinking by youth contributes to reductions in future alcohol problems, including alcohol dependence; binge drinking and alcohol-associated traffic trashes, injuries and fatalities and violence. Additional NIH research has shown that lifetime alcohol dependence decreased steeply as a function of increasing age at the onset of drinking.

Next month, at GHSA’s Annual Meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, we will hold a workshop to help highway safety agencies counter any effort in their states to lower the drinking age. Researchers and experts from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, MADD and others will share their analysis and tips for preserving 21.

As Congress prepares to reauthorize the federal highway legislation, GHSA will continue to make the case that 21 has been effective and will vigorously oppose any repeal effort. In the meantime, I would be glad to speak to any of these college and university presidents and share with them why 21 has been an important highway safety law.

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The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)® is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy and enhance program management. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit