New Data Show Drinking Age Laws Saved 4,441 Lives Over 5 Years

Minimum 21-year-old drinking age laws prevented an estimated 4,441 drunken driving deaths in the last five years alone, according to a new report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Turning our back on these laws would be a deadly mistake. Minimum drinking age laws are among the most effective measures ever used to reduce drunken driving deaths among America’s young people,” said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Kelly, who presented the report at an underage drinking symposium on the subject led by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

In addition to estimating lives saved due to 21-year-old minimum drinking age laws, the new NHTSA study shows the number of lives saved by motorcycle helmets has risen sharply in recent years, paralleling an increase in motorcycle use. Agency estimates indicate that lives saved by helmets rose from 1,173 in 2003 to 1,784 in 2007. For the five-year period ending last year, fully 7,502 lives were spared because motorcyclists used helmets.

The new statistical report examined a series of additional safety issues, and showed that in 2007 alone: frontal air bags saved 2,788 passengers age 13 and older; child safety seats saved 358 lives of children age 4 and under; seat belts saved 15,147 and could have saved another 5,024 lives had they been worn by all vehicle occupants involved in fatal crashes.

Earlier this year, more than 100 university presidents signed on to the Amethyst Initiative, which aims to lower the drinking age. The effort has spurred action by coalitions throughout the country. Since the 21 drinking age law became uniform among states, NHTSA estimates that more than 25,000 lives have been saved. In addition, more than 50 peer-reviewed studies have found that increasing the drinking age significantly lowers alcohol-related fatalities.

To view the new NHTSA report, visit www.nhtsa.gov.

(Taken from CADCA’s Coalitions Online: www.cadca.org/CoalitionsOnline)

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