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we have done in New Jersey, on December 28, 1982, Gov. Thomas Kean signed into law Senate bill 885, which raised the drinking age from 19 to 21. New Jersey is proud to make the statement that we have saved lives in our State since the inception of the 21 bill.
The statistics for the first 6 months of 1983 indicate there were 52 fatal accidents involving drivers in the 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old age group. Those accidents involve 13 drunken drivers, in which a total of 60 people were killed. For the same period in 1982, there were 79 fatal accidents with 34 drunken drivers, and 90 people killed. This is a reduction of 27 fatal accidents and 21 fewer drunken drivers.
The most important statistic is that we saved 30 lives.
We would like to give you a brief history of the drinking age in New Jersey and the impact that it has on our society. On January 1, 1973, the drinking age in New Jersey was lowered from 21 to 18. The statistics for the first year indicated that drivers in the age group of 18, 19, and 20 who were drunk and involved in fatal accidents doubled. In 1972, there were 18 drunken drivers involved in fatal accidents. In 1973 it jumped to 37.
Because of these alarming statistics, the New Jersey State Police closely monitored the situation, and implemented an age of majority report. Through this report, we have been able to keep a close eye on the problem. In 1979, the legislature realized that a problem had developed by lowering the drinking age. On January 2, 1980, the legal age for drinking was raised to 19. The first year we showed a reduction in all the categories involving 18., 19., and 20year-old drivers. Because of the grandfather clause, the full impact was not seen until 1981. The number of 18., 19., and 20-year-old drivers involved in fatal accidents dropped from a high of 72 in 1980 to a low of 59 in 1981.
These figures also aided in the support of raising the drinking age to 21. When we started this New York had a drinking age of 18. It has now been raised to 19. And there were some great concerns among the legislators of the districts that border New York State and New York City that our 18., 19., and 20-year-old drivers would cross over into New York in order to consume alcoholic beverages. It was the concern of those legislators that the problem they had prior to 1972 would blossom again.
The drinking age was reduced from 21 to 18 on January 1, 1973. A comprehensive study was conducted by our fatal accident unit in relation to our youths who were killed in the counties with a close proximity to New York City and New York State. The statistical report listed all the deaths in the years prior to 1973, when the drinking age was 21, as compared to the years after 1973 when the drinking age was lowered to 18.
The report listed only those who were killed by a drunken driver within the ages of 18 to 20. The report clearly showed we had a problem in the years prior to 1973, however, nowhere as significant as our experience thereafter. As an example, Bergen County had five deaths involving drunken drivers in the age group of 18 to 20 during the period of 1965 to 1972. After the drinking age was lowered, in 1973, the deaths skyrocketed to 39. Other counties had similar experiences. Middlesex County went from 9 to 41, Passaic from 10 to 28, Union County from 8 to 22. The total statistics for all seven counties indicated 57 deaths during the period of 1965 through 1972 as compared to 173 deaths during 1973 to 1981, for an increase of 116 deaths.
This clearly indicates that there were more youths killed when the drinking age was 18 as opposed to 21. Crossing the border was not as significant a problem as the age itself.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes our testimony. We do feel that the drinking age alone is not the total answer, but that coupled with alcohol awareness programs has worked for us, and I am sure that it will work for other States also, and we totally support H.R. 3870.
[The charts referred to follows:]
NEW JERSEY STATE POLICE
AGE OF MAJORITY
The enactment of Senate Bill 5-992, that became effective on January 1, 1973, added over one-half million potential drinking drivers to our highways. Accident statistics are available for this age group (18 19 20); however, alcohol involvement relative to accidents is available only in accidents where fatalities occur.
Listed below are statistics indicating the involvement of drivers in accidents in the 18 to 20 year-old age group. The year 1972 is used as a base, being the year prior to the Age of Majority.
On January 2, 1980, Senate Bill S-1126 was signed into law as Chapter 260, Laws of 1979, which extends to persons 19 years of age and older the right to sell, purchase and consume alcoholic beverages. The figures below reflect those drivers in the 19-20 year-old age group.
The figures below reflect the drivers
the 18 year-old age group.
*Figures include seven accidents where the drivers were combined in the 18-19-20 year-old age group.
(SEVEN COUNTIES WITH A CLOSE PROXIMITY TO AYC & NY STATE)
1965 - 1972
1965 - 1972
1973 - 1981
1973 - 1981
1LBEATUS PASSAIC COUNTY
1973 - 1981
8 DEATHS UNION COUNTY
Mr. Florio. Thank you very much.
We are now pleased to hear from Mr. Nicholas DeLuca, who is the administrative assistant to Senator Frank Graves, who I was very pleased to serve in the legislature with, and who has really been the sparkplug in New Jersey in the efforts to increase the drinking age. Mr. DeLuca, welcome to the committee.
STATEMENT OF NICHOLAS DeLUCCIA Mr. DELUCCIA. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. My name is Nicholas DeLuccia, representing New Jersey State Senator Frank X. Graves, who incidentally would have been here this morning except his dad is critically ill, and he is at his side.
Mr. FLORIO. I understand.
Mr. DELUCCIA. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for allowing me to appear before your committee concerning H.R. 3870, which would raise the drinking age to 21 uniformly across the country. As the main sponsor of the legislation in raising the drinking age from 18 to 21 in the State of New Jersey, Senator Graves is extremely supportive of your efforts to try and raise the drinking age on a national level.
The calculations of success of this legislation in New Jersey alone have been overwhelmingly remarkable. The State police have released statistics this year showing a remarkable reduction in deaths and injuries among 18- to 20-year-olds. We just heard some of the statistics, but I would like to repeat them.
Every indication supports the increase in age to relieve us of a terrible mistake we made 11 years ago when we reduced the age to 18 to purchase liquor. Some of the specific figures released by the New Jersey State Police involved accidents of 18-year-olds, and the number has fallen from 79 for the first 6 months of last year to 52 for a comparable period this year, the number of fatalities from 90 to 60, and across the State the number of people killed again is down from 680 to 589.
Some of the statements I would like to make now, I hope that Mr. Richardson would be able to stay, but because of pressing business, I know he had to leave.
There are many arguments presented by the youth such as I am old enough to fight and die for my country, I am old enough to get married, I am old enough to own a home; why can I not purchase or drink alcoholic beverages?
Let us take the first argument first: I am old enough to fight for my country. What we must remember is that the individual is brought in and trained intensively for 4 to 6 months. He does not just run into battle with a loaded gun and make a major decision. He is constantly supervised and watched over during these periods. A vast difference from a guy who grabs a bar stool and drinks until he falls off.
I urge you and those who serve with you to save the lives of our youth by passing this legislation. I realize the numbers are small, in the minority, but enough for us to curb this permissive law.
And I would also like to thank you, Chairman Florio, and your committee for introducing this bill.
Thank you very much.