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I think you could logically conclude from that that if they did respect the idea that it was desirable to do, the majority are going to, as you say, respect the validity of the law. Even though they may be inclined to want to drink, if the law were changed, they would not violate the law. That is, I think, responsive to the point that has been raised.
The last point I would like to ask your thoughts on, again making reference to the prepared testimony which is to be delivered in a few moments from the National Licensed Beverage Association argues that raising the drinking age encourages drinking in unsupervised areas. Implicit in that, I think, is that somehow the tavern or the establishment where the sale is consummated functions as a supervisory atmosphere, and that if you take the young person under 21 out of that supervised area, they will somehow be less responsible. It is sort of an interesting argument, and I just wondered what your thoughts are with regard to the supervision that takes place in commercial establishments to care for the young people under age who may have had too much alcohol.
Ms. LUBINSKI. Well, I would argue that whether or not an individual is drinking in a bar, in a so-called supervised setting, is not going to influence one way or the other his or her ability to get in his or her car and drive home. Second, one of the reasons why we have adopted a position that discourages teenagers from alcohol use is that the majority of teenage drinking, regardless of the drinking age, is done in nonsupervised and clandestine settings.
So, I do not know if too many studies have been done about the influence of the drinking age on that fact, but that happens to be the fact of the matter right now. A good deal of drinking is done in cars, is done at parties, whether you are talking about an 18- or a 21-year-old drinking age.
Mr. FLORIO. Let me hasten to add, and I think this is important to add, that we should not attempt to portray all of those who commercially sell alcohol as automatically on the one side of the issue. I have been in contact with people in my own State, and I suspect this prevails across the Nation, there are those who in a sense welcomed the change that took place in some of the States increasing the drinking age to 21, feeling that those who were drinking under 21 were probably more trouble than they were worth in terms of the commercial benefit that they came back and that this relieved some of the tavern owners and some of the package store people of the responsibilities that they felt they had prior to the age being lifted. So, we should not attempt to say that there is monolithic opposition to this legislation on the part of those who commercially sell or distribute alcohol, because it is not monolithic.
Mr. HURLEY. As a matter of fact, Mr. Chairman, I know of one instance of a major chain of restaurant bars where they have raised the drinking age during certain hours to 21 nationally, regardless of State law.
Mr. FLORIO. Mr. Lent.
Mr. Hurley, I asked Mrs. Lightner some of these same questions, but perhaps you would have something more to add to her responses. I asked whether in your view the most important feature of this bill, H.R. 3870, is the uniformity that it would establish or the age that it sets. In other words, as long as the age was uniform, would setting it at age 19 or setting it at age 20 be equally as effective as age 21 in preventing alcohol-related fatalities?
Mr. HURLEY. Well, I think both points are equally important. Uniformity is a crucially important issue. The New York metropolitan area is a good example. The Chicago area of the border between Wisconsin and Illinois are clear examples where disparity in age does result in increased fatalities. I would point out, though, we would obviously strongly oppose if the Congress would force the 19 States that do have a 21-year-old drinking age to lower that age, and I think that would be a major step backwards.
Mr. LENT. Well, certainly, and I think if there were any move down the road, and we hope we will be able to stick with the 21 age, but sometimes we have to compromise a little bit, but certainly in such a case there would have to be a provision that would say that any State that had a higher drinking age could, of course, preserve that drinking age, but we would encourage all States to go to 21.
The other question I wanted an answer to was whether in your opinion enforcement of the drinking age tends to become more difficult the higher the age selected.
Mr. HURLEY. I do not have any particular expertise in that area. I would assume that that is perhaps correct, that it is more difficult to enforce the age. We have no independent expertise on that.
Mr. LENT. And on the last page of your testimony, you made this statement, and I would just like to go back with you. You say:
ased upon the research and experience outlined above, the National Safety Council strongly supports efforts to increase the minimum legal drinking age to 21 in all states. A number of mechanisms to achieve this have been proposed.
We are involved in our own bill here this morning. Can you outline for us other possible scenarios for achieving the same goal?
Mr. HURLEY. There are at least two other proposals. As you may know, the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving on Monday in Atlanta adopted a proposal which would deny highway funds, that is, construction approval for highway funds to States that would have a lower drinking age than 21. That is a so-called disincentive approach. It is the 55-mile-an-hour speed limit model, if you will. There is also a proposal contained in Senator Danforth's legislation in the Senate that would provide incentive grants to States that have or would increase the drinking age to 21.
So, there are at least three proposals that have been put forth.
Mr. LENT. OK. I wonder if I could just ask one question to Ms. Lubinski. Ms. Lubinski, in your testimony you discuss various problems which your group believes have contributed to alcohol-related deaths. You failed to mention our lenient judicial system and how the likelihood of arrest for drunk drivers is so low. Do you think that these two facts have made a significant contribution to our drunk driving problems?
Ms. LUBINSKI. Do you mean the hesitancy of the judicial system to enforce drunk driving laws?
Mr. LENT. That is right, and the low likelihood of arrest for drunk driving, and the fact that our judges in some cases have been rather lenient with respect to drunk driving.
Ms. LUBINSKI. I think that probably has had an adverse influence. I guess my sense is that that does not affect-I am not sure that that is as major a contribution to the youth drunk driving problem as it may be perhaps with repeat DWI offenders among adults. I think patterns of drinking and availability of alcohol affect the drunk driving problem to a greater degree, particularly among youth. Drunk driving seems to have increased greatly since so many States in the early seventies lowered the drinking age. I see that as a greater contributing factor than, the judicial system, but that is only my personal opinion.
Mr. LENT. Mr. Hurley, would you have anything to add?
Mr. HURLEY. Well, again, 21 is a key part of the overall solution to drunk driving, and there is no question that adjudication of drunk driving arrests and disposition of the cases is a major area where the Presidential Commission has made a number of very positive and key recommendations.
Mr. FLORIO. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. FLORIO. Just to follow up on a point that was brought out by Mr. Lent, the suggestion that there may be some virtue in denying to States highway moneys that can be used for improvement of the roads, particularly safety improvements, because they have failed to take action in this area seems to me to be less than rational, because what you are saying is, if you do not take one action designed to improve safety on the highway; that is, lifting the age to 21, we are going to penalize you by making your roads even less safe by providing you with less money in order to incorporate improvements in the highway system, many of which are very safety related.
Do you have any thoughts on what appears to be a less than thoughtful approach?
Mr. HURLEY. The experience of that mechanism as it relates to the 55-mile-an-hour speed limit has been very positive, and it continues to save approximately 5,000 lives a year. The amount of funds we are talking about is substantial enough that very few States, if any, would choose not to follow that recommendation if adopted by the Congress.
Mr. FLORIO. What you are saying, then, is that the expectation is that no funds would be cut off because everyone would comply, and therefore not be deprived of Federal highway funds, and the difference, I would suggest, between 55 miles an hour and the drinking age-I am trying to think of who it is who would be on the other side of the 55-mile-an-hour lobbying effort, and I cannot think of too terribly many groups.
Mr. HURLEY. This administration has not been particularly supportive.
Mr. FLORIO. I can think of commercial groups that are going to be on the other side, so that there might not be a sure thing that everyone would say that we cannot afford not to have these highway safety moneys, therefore we had better increase the drinking age; and my concern is that you would be faced with the worst of both worlds, that you would not have the drinking age lifted, and then, as a result of that failure to act, you would be deprived of the revenues that would help you deal with the safety problems that may exist on some of your highways, and I just think that is something we should think out very, very carefully.
I thank the gentleman for yielding.
I want to thank both of you for your testimony. I support and agree with the legislative position that you have advocated this morning. Perhaps neither of you would want to comment, and I am not asking for a comment, but the one point made by opponents of this particular legislation that is most troubling to me in my support of the legislation is the point that when we repealed prohibition several decades ago,I think it was the 19th amendmentmatters relating to prohibition were left to the States.
I want you to help me come up with an answer, because I, too, am troubled about any constitutional problems that we have with the Federal Government stepping into an area that under an amendment to the Constitution may be left to the States. So perhaps neither of you would care to comment at this time, but I would very much like to have the benefit of any papers or documents that your attorneys have prepared and court cases that deal with this issue.
Mr. HURLEY. We obviously are not authorities in constitutional law. I would hate to see the debate on this issue, though, be focused on the issue of the Constitution rather than on the merits of the issue of 21.
Mr. Dowdy. That is all I have. Thank you.
Mr. RICHARDSON. I wonder if either of you knew whether the administration has taken a formal position on this bill. Obviously, the Presidential Commission came out and said that they supported this. I wondered if this might not conflict with the administration's strong stance on States rights matters. Do you have any ideas as to whether the administration is in support of this bill?
Mr. FLORIO. Well, if the gentleman would yield, we are attempting at our next hearing to hear from representatives of the administration, and it is my intention to request the views of the Department of Transportation, the National Transportation Safety Board, and HHS as well, so that we have generalized statements of support for the concept, but we would like to get some in person statements with regard to this specific legislation from the administration, and we will do our best, and be counting on the assistance of Mr. Lent to provide us with the clout to get some statement from the administration.
Mr. HURLEY. Mr. Chairman, if I might, I would like to respond to a point that Mr. Richardson made earlier concerning the military. The principal cause of death to America's Armed Forces today is not hostile fire. It is drunk driving. And Secretary Weinberger recently announced a major effort to try to take action on this problem in a comprehensive way.
Mr. RICHARDSON. Well, that is an important point, but that still does not satisfy the philosophical difference that I think we have on this subject. We are in effect making a moral judgment for others. That is my concern. And I think no statistic can answer that, although as I repeat again, I support this legislation. It is just that I have trouble reconciling it to our fighting men and women.
Ms. LUBINSKI. If I could just contribute one piece of information to follow up on this gentleman's comment. At this moment the Senate Subcommittee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse is teaming up with the Senate Armed Forces Committee to hold hearings on alcohol abuse in the military.
Mr. RICHARDSON. Let me proceed a little further. You both are experts in this area. How would you control some of the consumption in the military? I mean, what is the problem? Are we talking about problems of depression, or what is the main cause of alcoholism in the military?
Mr. HURLEY. I do not know that I have an answer to that specifically. Some of the ways of control, though, have proved very effective on a number of Air Force bases. As the airmen leave the base, they have to follow a course of pylons. If they knock one over, they are asked to either take a breath test or go home. There are mechanisms of control available to the military that really are more extensive than that in the general population, and a number of steps that the Air Force has taken have been models in that area.
Mr. RICHARDSON. As I understand it, most of the efforts in this area are increased counseling services, and they relate to other problems not related to them being in the military, and I am just trying to educate myself.
Ms. LUBINSKI. I understand from a recent briefing I attended by a representative from the Pentagon about the approach the Department of Defense is taking to the recent eruption and zooming of statistics in the alcohol area, including drunk driving statistics. It seems largely attributable to the fact that DOD has cracked down so hard on drug abuse that they no longer have a drug abuse problem, but as many people have said for a long time, if you deprive people of drugs they move to alcohol, and if you do not focus on both forms of substance abuse, you end up with the other problem, I gather that they plan to take a public health approach to this problem, a kind of general education campaign about healthy behavior and about not needing alcohol, or how alcohol contributes to unhealthy behavior.
Mr. RICHARDSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. RITTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to commend you on this bill, and as an original cosponsor, I am happy to be a part of the effort to control drunk driving and the hazards thereof via this kind of legislation.
I would like to pay special tribute to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, because I think these questions have been floating around the halls of the legislature and Congress for some time, but I think it is that grassroots effort that has motivated so many people in the political arena to pay attention to the subject that Mothers Against Drunk Driving have stimulated that really made the major difference.
I just got in from my district this morning, and I was not able to hear Ms. Candy Lightner's testimony, but I can assure you I will read it very carefully. We in the Federal Government have placed a great deal of our efforts in regulating for the public health and