In a press release today, the acting Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) states unequivocally that lowering the current drinking age from 21 would be a big mistake and would put the lives of teenagers at risk. The Chairman was responding to a group of university administrators who in an attempt to quell the rising number of deaths on their campuses due to binge drinking, called on parents and lawmakers to lower the drinking age to 18.
Rosenker said, "I hope lawmakers and parents will not be persuaded by unsupported arguments like 18 year olds can vote and buy homes so why should laws prohibit them from drinking? The fact is that voting and buying a home doesn't kill you or kill others. And crashes end up costing society billions of dollars in economic losses, not to mention the incalculable psychological toll."
"It is a statistical fact that this age group is overrepresented in the number of traffic accidents and fatalities because of inexperience and lack of driving skills. Combine that with easier access to alcohol the potential for death on our nation's highways is even greater. I urge those college administrators to reconsider and redouble their efforts to help enforce their State laws, which have prevented countless drunk driving fatalities."
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Oh, well, end of "debate" then. We can all save a lot of valuable time. Why talk about the drinking age if things are so black and white? I'm glad the NTSB has laid out the solid, unassailable FACTS. The only FACT I see in Rosenker's statement is that the 21 LDA has prevented "countless drunk driving fatalities." He's right about that: "countless", as in "cannot be counted." The FACT is that the NTSB's statistics are based on narrow assumptions, and are not broadly based enough to give a useful picture of what's really happening. What happened with deaths in states that already were 21 LDA? What happened in the cohorts on either side of 18-21? How long did any drop in traffic deaths persist? What about the effect of stiffer drunk driving laws, picture IDs, seatbelt laws, airbags, better automobile construction? When did 18-21 drunk driving deaths start to go down, before or after the 21 LDA passed? What constitutes a "drunk driving death?" There are many open questions in the NTSB's "statistical facts", which is exactly what the Amethyst Initiative wants to examine. They are looking for a real answer, not a convenient one, an answer that will help change the drinking culture rather than throw increasingly draconian -- and still sadly ineffective -- laws at it.
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