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Dear Congresso I Corio:
As the main sponsor og legislation raising the drinking age from 18-21,
* State on New Jersey, I can writing to you to say how supportive we 176 in Jersey uh yeur eshorts to do this on a National level.
Because my father is critically ill and I am cong ined to the area, I im sending Nicholas Deluccia to appear. He was ny Chies Aide at the time as this legisiation.
The calculations of the success of this legislation, in New Jersey alone, bave been overwhelmingly remarkable. The State Poiice have released statistics her this year that show a remarkable reduction in death. ind in jurues gor ink 18 - 20 year old bracket. Every indication overwhelmingly supports the increase voittee to wieve us of the terrible mistake made 11 years ago.
There were many arguments presented...I am old enough to fight and die hot my cowitry; I am old enough to get married and I am old enough Thume'. whui can't I purchase or drink alcoholic beverages?
Let's take the first argument, I am old enough to fight for my country. (that we must remember is that the individuai' is brought in and trained, intensively, by experts for + 6 months. He doesn't run into battle with a metod yun an make decisions. He is totallu! supervised and watched over. A vast desherence from the guy who grabs a bar stooi and drinks until he gains aéf.
I urge trou and those who serve with you to save the lives of our youth. I realize the numbers are a small minority, but enough for us to curb this Pem(38ive in.
Mr. FLORIO. Thank you.
Let me just observe that I think your comment on the training that goes into military service is a particularly relevant insight to perhaps deal with the argument that is raised with regard to the comparability of military service and the capability of drinking.
Let me say that no disrespect is intended to any of the witnesses here today, but I think that Captain Blanda's statistical evidence is perhaps the most persuasive, objective information that we have had here this morning in terms of the demonstrative benefits that derive in this situation almost in a laboratory way that flow from increasing the drinking age. And I think that is very important and that certainly will be highlighted; those numbers and the New Jersey experience should be highlighted because we can see the clear results from lowering and from increasing, and I think that is something that is particularly important.
I would like to ask perhaps the representative from the PTA to respond to the fact that we have had some of these polls that have shown that 18-year-olds, 19-year-olds and 20-year olds are not particularly offended by the thought of increasing the drinking age. And I just would like your observations as an organization that deals with young people as to the validity of that poll as you perceive it from a less than objective way.
Mr. FEGE. Well, Mr. Chairman, our office has assisted a number of States-Wisconsin and Michigan. We have assisted New Jersey and assisted Massachusetts, and I am not surprised by that poll. And I think that there was a State—and the outcome is not surprising-I think there is a State that did poll that suggested two out of every three teenagers thought that there should be some raise in the drinking age.
I bring a letter from Haddonfield, N.J., where an English teacher writes that the problem at that high school was so severe that the board raised the drinking age, and they found a tremendous decrease not only in alcohol problems in the school but also in other related discipline problems.
I think, third, that in many cases youngsters are put into some very difficult circumstances where they have to make some very difficult decisions. Certainly the complexities of peer groups, the pressure, certainly the complexity of growing up really adds to that.
I think that they in many cases—and I have talked to youngsters, and I have talked to parents, and I have talked to families-- I think they are in many cases happy they do not have to make that choice. And they do have now a legal rationale on which to fall back.
Mr. FLORIO. Last, I would like to ask a question of you, Captain Blanda.
The question has been raised by some about the difficulty in enforcing the 21-year-old age limit as contrasted with a lower age limit, 19-year-old or whatever. In your experience and in the experience of the State police of New Jersey is there a large amount of responsibility or a greater burden that is placed on the State police in making distinctions between the 21-year-old law enforcement responsibility versus a 19-year-old law enforcement responsibility?
Captain BLANDA. I would believe that our experiences would show that we have probably greater problems in enforcing the 18-, 19- and 20-year-old law than we did prior to the law going to 21. I think our law now is 21 years of age, and-
Mr. FLORIO. There is no new burdens that have been placed on you as a result of that change?
Captain BLANDA. I cannot think of any.
Let me just conclude by asking unanimous consent to put in the record a statement provided to me, a statement that quotes the general secretary-treasurer of a 400,000-member union local in Cincinnati of the National Bartenders Union, quotes in favor of increasing the drinking age, in that State, and it says that-as a matter of fact, the quote is interesting; I will read it. It says, “I know this might sound strange since many of our union members make their living from serving booze," said Herman Levitt, general secretary-treasurer of this particular local, but then it goes on and says, “But we have to look at recent statistics which show a great percentage of the deaths caused by drunken driving are in the 16 to 19 age group.”
He said-apparently 19 is the age limit in Ohio, and I think this is again just a piece of evidence that the support for this legislation and this type of legislative initiative is really very broadly based, going into areas where one might not think there would be support for this type of legislation.
Without objection I would like to make this a part of the record. [The material follows:]
BARTENDERS URGE STATES: RAISE DRINKING AGE CINCINNATI.—The National Bartenders union has called for states to raise the legal drinking age to 21 in an effort to reduce traffic deaths caused by drunken driving:
“I know this might sound strange since many of our union members make their living from serving booze," said Herman Leavitt, general secretary-treasurer of the 400,000-member union, headquartered in Cincinnati.
“But we have to look at recent statistics which show a great percentage of the deaths caused by drunk driving are in the 16-19 age group,” he said.
The union's executive board voted Tuesday to endorse raising the drinking age because little is being done by other groups, Leavitt said.
“The only group that is doing anything is MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers). I think it is time a union such as ours takes a stand. Who else is doing any. thing? We have congressmen and policemen getting caught driving while drunk,” he said.
Leavitt said the union also believes that information about drunken driving should be included in driver education programs.
Mr. FLORIO. I would now like to recognize the gentleman from New York, Mr. Lent.
Mr. LENT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Captain Blanda, I want to thank you for your testimony. I would like to thank all the members of the panel for their testimony.
I was wondering, referring to your testimony, Captain, on page 2 whether you are talking about the statistics on how many deaths are alcohol-related whether you are talking about youths who were killed exclusively or whether you were talking about deaths throughout the population as a result of youths between 18 and 21 being drunk and driving a car?
Captain BLANDA. That would be the deaths throughout the population as a result of the 18- to 20-year-old being drunk.
Mr. LENT. So that it is not quite clear from the testimony, so that when you are talking about how many, you say as an example Bergen County had five deaths involving drunken drivers in the age group of 18 to 20. You do not mean that all of the people who were killed were 18 to 20; you mean they were killed by drunk drivers age 18 to 20, and they may have been youths, they may have been little old ladies standing on the street corner who were hit.
Captain BLANDA. They were accidents caused by a young driver.
Mr. LENT. Do you think that a low likelihood of arrest of drunk drivers combined with a so-called lenient judicial system served to perpetuate this nation's drunk driving problems?
Captain BLANDA. We do not have that problem in New Jersey. In fact, last year we had a 96-percent conviction rate for drinking and driving, so I think the system is working. I could see where that might be a problem in a state that had a much lower percentage.
Mr. LENT. One thing that interested me, I think all over the country legislators have been hearing about increased incidences of vandalism in the communities as a result of young people in many cases destroying personal property and destroying public property-schools, churches, synagogues.
In my home community we have had difficulty where we have a public park, and there is a memorial to our deceased veterans, and that has been vandalized several times. And there is always a lot of litter and beer bottles and so forth around the area.
Do you think that this kind of a law raising the drinking age to 21 nationwide might have an appreciable effect on the amount of vandalism that seems to take place in our communities?
Captain BLANDA. Yes, sir, definitely.
Mr. LENT. Has the State of New Jersey-maybe it is too early to tell—but has the State of New Jersey indicated any change in the incidence of vandalism since the 21 drinking age?
Captain BLANDA. The lower the drinking age, the probability vandalism of increases because of the type parties they go to and the affairs that they attend. And the higher age does lower that type of vandalism; there is no question.
Mr. LENT. Are you hoping that your bordering State, my home State of New York, will soon go the same route and increase its drinking age?
Captain BLANDA. Yes, we are. We have met with them several times, and I guess pressures, political pressures, what have you. The people we have met with desire to raise the age, especially the State police.
Mr. LENT. Mr. Fege, have you contacted the New York State Council of Parent-Teacher Associations in this respect?
Mr. FEGE. Yes, we have.
Mr. LENT. And they are working, I assume, to bring about the same result in New York State?
Mr. FEGE. As cooperatively as they have for a number of years. Mr. LENT. Well, I will speak to my assemblymen in my State.
Is it possible, Mr. Fege, that even if we do raise the drinking age to 21, teenagers will still be able to obtain alcohol? In other words,
how much of a deterrent do you think raising the drinking age will be?
Mr. FEGE. Well, I will make a personal observation, but certainly one that relates to the 5%2 million members of our organization. We studied the issue, we have for a number of years, very carefully, and we think that the preponderance of information of reports that the national PTA has studied have suggested overwhelming evidence that there will be a reduction.
We obviously cannot curtail all problems. We also believe that this law must be passed in conjunction with other efforts, especially preventitive, and other educational measures. We urge this administration and this Congress to appropriate more moneys for drug abuse education and counseling at the State and local levels.
We think that the combination of tougher enforcement, raising the drinking age, and a humane approach of counseling and preventive education will make a significant difference.
Mr. LENT. Do you think there is any validity to the view of some that raising the drinking age is going to encourage teenagers to drink in cars or other unsupervised places, bring back the hip pocket flask and so forth?
Mr. FEGE. It is certainly not going to be any worse than the circumstances that we are presented with presently, and we believe firmly that these measures will have a significant impact in decreasing, reducing the kinds of problems that you are talking about.
Mr. LENT. Mr. Chairman, I do have one last question that I would like to pose of Dr. Yeager, and I have asked this question of some of the other witnesses.
And you seem to imply in your testimony that uniformity of the drinking age, whatever that age might be, is perhaps a more important criterion than any particular age limit. Is that an accurate representation of your views?
Dr. YEAGER. No. I think it is a combination. Every year that you raise the drinking age, you make the alcohol less available, you have less consumption, less drinking, and therefore fewer fatalities. I favor 21 for historical reasons, not based on statistics; and favor uniformity certainly, to get rid of the border problem where it does exist.
Mr. LENT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I thank each of the witnesses for their very helpful testimony this morning.
Mr. FLORIO. Mr. Ritter.
Some people make the argument that these reductions in fatalities may be linked to the reduction in the speed limit. Is there anyone there, particularly Officer Blanda, could you comment on that?
Captain BLANDA. Well, a reduction in fatalities occurs each time there is a change in the drinking age.
Mr. RITTER. It is sharply defined so you can see it and it is not connected?