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Captain BLANDA. It is not connected to the speed but more so to the drinking age itself, yes, sir.
Mr. RITTER. Dr. Yeager, you are a dentist?
Mr. RITTER. You work on fixing people's teeth after they have been involved in automobile accidents, is that how you got involved in this?
Dr. YEAGER. No. I became involved in schoolbus safety and became involved, interestingly, because the question of vandalism came up. Mrs. Scheps and I worked on schoolbus safety, and she was involved in a committee in West Orange to investigate problems in the school and vandalism. So they got together school authorities and municipal authorities and police authorities, and by the time they had finished a rather extensive meeting, they found that there was one common denominator to all of the problems and that was alcohol. And as a result, the coalition got started, and it is an interesting coalition because it touches the many bases.
I was called on to look at the automotive statistics, and of course they were horrendous when you see fatalities tripling, so that began my involvement.
Personally, my dental office happens to be on a corner, and kids-I never understood why-when they are drinking beer in their car, like to toss the beer bottles and the cans out of the window. When my own children became 19 and 20, I found out the reason. They do not want to bring home a case of empties and put it in the garbage because then dad says hey, what have you guys been doing. So what they do is when they come by Yeager's office, out go the beer cans.
In the last 6 months I have picked up far fewer beer cans since the drinking age in New Jersey has been raised.
Mr. RITTER. You are saying a bottle bill would not necessarily help that problem?
I do not know if this has come up prior to my coming here, but is there any indication that if legal drugs such as alcohol cannot be obtained that young people might-in supervised settings, that young people might turn to drugs available in the underground? We all know the situation. There are many high schools around the country where these things are available.
What are some thoughts on that, particularly marijuana?
Dr. YEAGER. It is a tough one to get numbers on because we know that the use of marijuana is very prevalent. When you start to try to-
Mr. RITTER. But is there not some kind of competing use between alcohol and marijuana that somehow the fashion seems to change? Ten years ago or more, in the late 1960's, early 1970's, there was probably more marijuana ,and today it is probably more alcohol. Is it conceivable that if we deny some kids the availability of alcohol, they could turn back to marijuana?
Dr. YEAGER. I have never seen a study which clearly demonstrates that, and I think it is more of a mode just like dress. This happens to be the in thing today, and it is not the in thing tomorrow. There seems to be no relation to the use of marijuana with drinking ages in different areas. It is just what the kids are into at the particular time.
Mr. RITTER. Would the gentleman from the PTA care to comment?
Mr. FEGE. You obviously raise a larger question than raising the drinking age to 21, and it is a societal question: the question of why a society consumes drugs and alcohol.
Mr. RITTER. But is it not also true that when people want to do something like this, it is like a balloon; if you push in one direction, it kind of expands at the other?
Mr. FEGE. Well, I think we have to take a look at a more comprehensive Federal, State, and local policy. And the law focuses primarily on the 18- to 21-year-old, especially as it pertains to problems in the high school, as it pertains to problems on the road. But the much larger problem, one of the problems that we have had in getting a handle on, it is the larger problem of the consumer society.
We think that this law would protect the age group. We have a preponderance of information. I think it was Congressman Richardson or Congressman Dowdy that talked about States' rights. We were advised several years ago that perhaps this would be a State problem and that the States should solve it.
As Dr. Yeager has testified, we have now a patchwork of differing ages which I think even complicates the judicial system. I think it really creates an unfairness in that system between States and between competing jursidictions.
There is no question in my mind that at least in that age group with the information we have that it does reduce fatalities, and it would achieve the objective, I think, that this committee wants; and that is, not only reducing fatalities, but in conjunction with other programs reduce the amount of alcoholism. And I think we have got to deal with the marijuana question and the substance abuse question as well.
Mr. RITTER. I represent a district, the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania-Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton area-which borders on the State of New Jersey. And I would like to compliment the chairman's State and Senator Graves and Governor Kean for having taken the step of raising the drinking age there to 21, because in that border area there were just time again you would pick up the newspaper on a Sunday morning and you would read all about it. There was some big accident, and it turns out the kids were coming home from a bar over the border in New Jersey in Phillipsburg.
And I can see how those border problems, personally having lived through it and read all about it, how they exist in these other States. And certainly this legislation would go a long way to ameliorate that.
And I yield back.
Let me just say that the gentleman from New York and the gentleman from Pennsylvania have both raised the peripheral question of vandalism, and I am hopeful that at our next hearing we will have some expert testimony that will go into in some depth the side benefit of this piece of legislation and the whole question of putting a rein on the vandalism that flows from young people and alcohol that is, as I say, a secondary but very important benefit of this legislation over and above the main thrust of the legislation which is to deal with driving and drinking on the part of young people.
And so we hope that we will be able to develop that point as well in our next hearing.
Let me express my appreciation to all of the witnesses of this panel. You have been very helpful, and I thank you very much.
Our last panel is made up of two individuals. The first gentleman that we are pleased to hear from is Mr. Michael Birkley who is representing the National Licensed Beverage Association. And we are also pleased to have with us today Mr. Terrance Micek of the National Council of State Liquor Administrators.
Gentlemen, we welcome you to the committee and appreciate your participation. And as with our other witnesses, your statement will be made a part of the record in their entirety, and you may feel free to proceed as you see fit.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL M. BIRKLEY, ON BEHALF OF NATIONAL
LICENSED BEVERAGE ASSOCIATION; AND TERRANCE D. MICEK, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY-TREASURER, NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LIQUOR ADMINISTRATORS
Mr. BIRKLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My name is Michael Birkley. I am the executive director of the Tavern League of the State of Wisconsin, which is affiliated with the National Licensed Beverage Association headquartered now in Alexandria, Va.
NLBA provides public affairs, education, and research services to licensed beverage retailers, operators of cocktail lounges, restaurants, nightclubs, and taverns throughout the country.
Our 30,000 members are responsible business men and women whose business is taking good care of their customers and protecting their guests, their neighbors, and their communities against the effects of too much drinking by the irresponsible few.
As are most of our neighbors and all of the witnesses today, because we have children, our members are deeply concerned about the need to reduce and prevent alcohol-related highway crashes. As responsible dispensers, hosts, and hostesses, we do our best to control against intoxication, and prevent service to minors, and to arrange safe transportation for those who drink too much despite our best efforts to control their drinking.
But licensed professionals only serve approximately 20 percent of the alcohol sold in the United States and only supervise about 20 percent of the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Eighty percent is served by amateurs in private, unlicensed settings.
And as Mr. Ritter pointed out, you only need to read the morning papers to know that we cannot do the job on our own. Alcohol abuse is the Nation's No. 1 alcohol, health, and social problem, and drunk driving is the No. 1 killer of young adults. This is a national problem and a national disgrace. And we believe that helping the States to prevent alcohol abuse and alcohol-related highway crashes is an appropriate and critical Federal responsibility.
But the issue here today is whether or not enforcing a minimum legal drinking age of 21 nationwide would be an effective and appropriate mechanism for achieving that objective.
Two years ago this summer the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety prompted a veritable stampede toward higher legal drinking ages among the States with the prediction that "Any State which raises the legal drinking age can expect a 28-percent reduction in fatal crashes among those affected by the law.
Now, that would be good news if it were true, but other responsible scientists, not the National Licensed Beverage Association, studying more sensitive, more comprehensive and more reliable indicators of alcohol-related highway crashes in the same and other age change States found no consistently reliable basis for making such a prediction.
The institute's prediction did come true in Michigan where Alexander C. Wagenaar, as you have heard, found a 32-percent reduction in alcohol-related highway crashes among those affected by the law. Actually, those were three-factor-surrogate crashes that he studied. But it did not come true in Montana, where the institute study itself showed that the fatal crash rates increased among 18year olds after the age was raised to 19. And it did not come true in Massachusetts where the authorities, both the Commissioner of Probation and the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, reported a 23-percent increase in the first year and a 13-percent increase in the second year in fatalities involving those affected.
It did not come true in Iowa, where the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, funded with Federal highway transportation dollars, reports fatalities rates among those affected also increased in the first year and then returned to prechange levels.
It did also not come true in Minnesota where the Department of Public Safety's data shows an initial increase in alcohol-related fatalities involving 18-year-olds, also followed by a return to prechange levels.
Finally, it did not come true in Maine where the other part of Wagenaar's report that was not cited here this morning is very clear. Wagenaar also studied Maine and found no significant change in serious crash rates in that State after the age was raised.
It did not come true in Illinois where the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Ms. Delmas Maxwell found a less than significant 8.8 percent reduction in crashes involving those affected. I say not significant. It did not approach the 15 percent which is the general threshold for statistical chance alone.
The Insurance Institute's prediction also did not come true in Florida where Morris most recently found that raising the age to 19 effected no change whatsoever in 18-year-olds' highway trafficcrash involvement. You do not need a Ph.D. to know one out of eight is not a sure thing, and the Insurance Institute's prediction was wrong in Seven of these eight States.
We did not find these things out. We are the messenger. You paid for those studies. You have a right to know about them.
In light of these results, predictions that raising the legal drinking age will reduce highway crashes among those affected are speculative in the extreme and clearly at odds with reality.
Much of the recent observation and recent research has been based on relatively short-term observations in States which raised the legal drinking age, but changes in behaviors observed in immediate postchange periods-and there is a lot of literature on thatare not particularly reliable indicators of the differences affected by long-term different, formal social policies, especially those which apply to widespread, historic social behaviors.
Now, to find out what long-term effects one can anticipate from the higher legal drinking age over time, we will take a look at some 116 studies, not all at once. In my written testimony you will find excerpts and references to 116 different studies of adolescent and adult drinking patterns and behavior conducted by scientists in the world's most respected institutions of higher learning-medical, behavioral and social research. And their findings are amazingly consistent and consistently at odds with the popular notion that a higher legal drinking age can reduce alcohol abuse and alcoholrelated crashes among those affected.
As the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said in its third annual report to Congress and has just been repeated in a multimillion-dollar research Triangle Institute study that has just been made available: “Where alcohol is readily available to older adults, it is not difficult for underage drinkers to obtain.
And here I would like to point out that according to the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research's most recent study of alcohol and drug use among high school seniors, marijuana is used on a daily basis by 10.2 percent of all the high school seniors in the United States, and alcohol is used by less than 6.9 percent on a daily basis.
If we cannot control availability of marihuana, which is totally prohibited, how can we prohibit availability of alcohol which is available virtually everywhere? And the futility of attempting to reduce availability and consumption by raising the age is clearly demonstrated by the fact that in four Midwestern States-my neighbors Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois-alcoholic beverage sales and revenues did not go down when the drinking age went up but continued to increase despite the reduction in the number of legal drinkers, most of whom, according again to Gallup, et cetera, drink more and more often than older adults.
In the 1980 study “Minimum Drinking Age Laws," Richard Bonnie reported a 5 to 15 percent shift in perception of the ease of availability during the immediate postchange period among those under the new legal drinking age; 85 to 95 percent continued to drink as much and as often as before.
But as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also reported to Congress, for which you paid a good deal of money, where young people are denied the legal opportunity to drink and consume alcoholic beverages in supervised settings, they do so illegally in unsupervised, often remote settings where they tend to drink more, drive more and get into more trouble than those who drink legally under supervision of the same age.
The World Health Organization also issued identical findings 4 years ago after studying all of the industrialized nations of the world. Proof of that fact is found in analysis of data for 22 States which retained different legal drinking ages for beer during the 5