Imágenes de páginas

of some of the other studies, and that is our responsibility, to make the ultimate determination.

But are you advocating opposition to the idea of a national uniform system, or are you advocating opposition to a State-by-State system that goes to 21? I thought I heard you say that you felt that increasing the age may very well be a detriment to highway safety. And if you carry that, of course, to its logical conclusion, are you advocating that we lower the drinking age as a means of reducing safety on the highways?

Mr. BIRKLEY. Well, as I said earlier, first of all, I do not rely upon just one study. This study was my own.

Mr. FLORIO. In what sense?

Mr. BIRKLEY. I did it. You see, I spent most of my adult life in the field of alcohol abuse prevention, education, and treatment. I have run hospitals. I have conveyed a 14-year-old girl as she died of intoxication. Some minor league Charles Manson had given her a quart of gin, dying in my arms on the way to the hospital.

Mr. FLORIO. Just for the record, what is the significance of the Blaney study?

Mr. BIRKLEY. The Blaney Institute is a conservative think tank in the city of Madison which publishes think pieces that give good advice to people who are smarter than they are; namely, the legislature. And I did this study independently at the request, however, of a State senator who had introduced a bill much earlier on the drinking age. And seeing as how I have published a good deal on the subject of formal social policies and controls over individual behaviors, he asked me to take a look at it. And so the Blaney Institute published it. I wrote it. It is all mine. It had nothing to do with the Tavern League of Wisconsin. They hired me later in May. And the Milwaukee Journal said it was as if James Watt had been named manager of the Beach Boys. I do not know what the Beach Boys thought about it, but I did not like it.

Mr. Florio. And when you say this is requested at the urging of the State representative, is that to imply that this is a publicly financed study?

Mr. BIRKLEY. No. I did it on my own.
But about the other studies--
Mr. FLORIO. This was gratuitous.

Mr. BIRKLEY. It is something I have been working on since I was chairman of the alcohol and drug abuse task force for Governor Lucey in 1976. I first became interested in this field when the highway safety leaders came to our task force, and my coleader was Marlene Schneider who is now the chairperson of our assembly Democratic caucus.

Mr. FLORIO. You are here representing the National Licensed Beverage Association?

Mr. BIRKLEY. Yes. But the research I have done, I began to do back in 1976.

Mr. FLORIO. Thank you.

Mr. BIRKLEY. Now, as far as what the studies show, I highly recommend that you take a look at what you spent millions of dollars on to have the Research's Triangle Institute do for you.

A lot of things have been said today that are absolutely not true. For example, we are not in the midst of a crisis. The crisis has passed. People are not beginning to drink at an earlier age. And all you have to do is check the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research Studies, "Drugs and the Class Of" in a 5-year study they did, or take a look at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse publication that was done by the Research Triangle Institute. I have a cite for you.

They showed that, indeed, not only are not young people beginning at an early age; they are drinking less and less frequently than before in terms of percent who drink, frequency of drinking occasions. There is one problem, however. Those who drink more heavily are an increasing percentage. We have to take a look at that.

Take a look at the FBI data. You asked about vandalism. You know that type II crimes and arrests, about 40 percent of which are always alcohol-related, have been increasing among persons under the age of 21 relative to older adults for the past 3 years.

Mr. FLORIO. Have been increasing?

Mr. BIRKLEY. Decreasing relative to older adults for the past 2 years. I am not sure

This says things indeed are getting better; that the statement that things are getting worse is not true.

Second, that what the researchers find—and we have to go way back to the 1950's-we know why young people drink, for heaven's sakes. And when you talk about training, we let them watch us drink from the time they were born. They get plenty of training by the time they are 4 and 5 years old according to all the sociological studies. They already know enough about when to drink, how much to drink, how much not to drink, what mommy and daddy do, how it makes them feel. They get plenty of training in drinking. They do not start when they are 19; they start when they are 2 and 3. And that is what we have got to work on.

But the scientists tell us what the social research shows us, what the World Health Organization shows us, what the research triangle shows us, they looked all over the United States, and they found the only correlation with how much or how often young people drink is how much and how often old people drink in the same community. And it varies from community to community in the same State regardless of the drinking age.

The only single correlation found after you spent millions of dollars to have NIAAA finance the study, the only correlation with underage drinkers drinking is older adults' attitudes and drinking behavior and practices.

And so what they suggest is that as they found, there is a legal drinking age, but all over the world there is a real drinking age. The normative age for onset of social drinking is age 16 whether you read it in Pravda or in the Janesville Gazette or the Milwaukee Journal or wherever. The point at which approximately 52 percent of the Nation's young people begin to drink outside of the home is age 16. And the closer the legal drinking age is to that normative age for the onset of social drinking, the safer it will be so that they can do it under the supervision of their parents and other older adults, so they do not throw the cans in Dr. Yaeger's front yard, so that they do not drink it all before they get home, so they do not get caught.

Mr. FLORIO. Let me just clarify that one point, because I thought I heard you say that the closer the legal drinking age is to the age of 16, the safer.

Mr. BIRKLEY. The safer it will be. There are various theories of control, and one which, you know, those of us who worked or have worked in the field of alcohol treatment know very well that there are three major prevailing theories. One is the theory of availability, which is what you are working on here-control availability or somehow prevent people from drinking. That would prevent alcohol abuse. There are other theories, the single distribution theory, but there is another one called the social integration theory in which it is felt that drinking which is done in a supervised, social, helpful, recreational setting is less likely to result in abuse than drinking which focuses on drinking with one's peers without supervision.

And that is precisely what young people do. Where the legal drinking age is higher, they go somewhere else.

Mr. FLORIO. If I could just conclude because I have obviously taken more than my appropriate time, why is it and what would your speculation be as to why all of these groups that we have Heard from today and we have heard from in the past, many of which are not commercially motivated, why are they so misinformed so as to be advocating higher drinking age levels when you say that if they are really truly concerned about safety on the highways for young people, they should be in here clamoring to lower the drinking age to 16?

Mr. BIRKLEY. No, I would not suggest that. There is one other component, by the way. I believe that 18 is the appropriate age because that is the age at which we assume all the responsibilities and duties of an adult in our society today except for those constitutionally prohibited things such as becoming President or a Congressman or a Senator.

But at the same time, while the Constitution permits the States, and you permit the States, to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages and transportation on the highways, the Constitution does not say you can do so in a discriminatory and unconstitutional manner.

What we are saying is treat all adults equally and focus in on the problem and do real things. Everything we talk about-drunk driving, kids getting hurt or killed, injured-all those are the results of already illegal behaviors. It is already illegal to serve a minor in my State; yet there are more than 12 million underage drinking violations in that State every year. And behind those violations there has to be an adult. And yet there are fewer than 500 arrests of adults for contributing to the sale to minors.

Mr. FLORIO. Is that not a commentary on the adequacy of your State law?

Mr. BIRKLEY. No. Let me continue. It is true all over the United States again. Talk about enforcement surveys which asked young people and adults should a child or an adult be fined, arrested or put in jail for just drinking? The overwhelming majority said no, but they should be if they get drunk and cause trouble. The general public simply does not insist on or assist in enforcing the existing law. It is already illegal to serve a minor. It is already illegal to serve an intoxicated person I think in every State in the Nation.

Drunkenness is a violation of that law, and drunk driving is already illegal.

But people simply do not enforce it. They will not even turn in their neighbor. I heard a talk show from Chicago with a drinking age of 21. A neighbor turned in a neighbor because he had served neighbor A's 16-year-old daughter a beer, and the telephone calls to the radio station condemning that man for that action were unbelievable.

Police officers will tell you, and they will not lie, when they take an intoxicated minor home, the immediate reaction of most parents is: "What are you hassling my kid for, it is not as if he was on drugs. And why are you not out getting real criminals?”

Mr. FLORIO. Assuming the validity of all that you have said, which not everyone is willing to assume, your response then is what?

Mr. BIRKLEY. My response is make the legal drinking age the age of majority throughout the United States. It ought to be uniform. And for heaven's sakes, enforce what you have got. Changin law-and again, alcoholism counselors- I know most of the kids I treated who were really alcoholics would not have been helped had the drinking age been 48 or had we had prohibition. It would not have made one bit of difference.

You see, the trouble is again the research shows that people who drink deviantly are socially deviant individuals who do not obey laws and social conventions to begin with. So if you raise the age, all you are going to do is make it more difficult. Mr. RITTER. Would the gentleman yield?

? Mr. FLORIO. Yes, I would.

Mr. RITTER. Are you saying the testimony given this morningand I assume you were here listening to it-in terms of higher rates of traffic fatalities as a function of lower drinking ages, that all that testimony is to be thrown out the window, that it doesn't mean anything, that you have the scientific be-all and end-all right here now to show us why all of these people are wrong?

Mr. BIRKLEY. I am saying I do not have it. You have it. The studies you paid for tell you that, if you look at them all. But if you just look at two studies, if you look at Alexander C. Wagenaar, who in the very same study everybody is quoting said he "did not make a blanket recommendation that all States should raise the legal drinking ages, and that some other considerations should be given.

And I suggest you look at Dr. Wagenaar, who is an excellent scientist. I suggest you do look at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, and I do suggest you look at what else happened in Michigan, by the way.

The bottle bill went on the same day that the drinking age went up, and Dr. Wagenaar comments that that probably also contributed. They also added 24 State officers to enforce the law, and that had an effect.

So we have to take a look at them and take at look at what those scientists said. People want to believe-

Mr. RITTER. What about the border problem?

Mr. BIRKLEY. Now, there, if you believe the Insurance Institute there is not any because the same report that says any State that

raises the age will get a 28-percent reduction in fatalities also said they could find no statistical basis for any differences due to border crossing crashes. In their analysis they could not find any statistically significant change due to border crossing.

Mr. RITTER. Could you please comment on why you think all of the people who are here this morning are so misdirected?

Mr. BIRKLEY. Probably for the same reason that I am here: because I wish it would be true that we could raise the age and it would save some lives. They want to believe it. It seems to make sense. It is going to make it less available. I mean that is the general theory.

Our department of revenue forecast if we raise the age to 19 we are going to lose $2 million, but we are not because they are still going to drink, and they are going to drink somewhere else.

Frankly, if you take a look at all of the research, you are going to wonder why we have been so misguided. It is wishful thinking. I wish it were true, but the evidence does not establish that.

When I was a 17-year-old U.S. Army private in Monterey, Calif., I drank every night, and I just found out 4 years ago that the legal drinking age there is 21.

Mr. RITTER. You mentioned something about Pravda. What was that?

Mr. BIRKLEY. Itchetetskaya Pravda.
Mr. RITTER. What is that?
Mr. BIRKLEY. It is a teacher's journal.

But in any event, you will find a number of citations, by the way, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse which has published a number of studies citing what is going on in the rest of the world. Take a look at the World Health Organization study.

I wish it were true. You know, you talk about the symbolic effect of the law. If you want to tell our Nation's young people right now we do not approve of them killing themselves and drinking to excess, all you have to do-it is real easy-enforce the existing laws. And if we do not enforce the existing law, changing it is not going to do one bit of good.

Temporarily for a week or two or a month, and within 9 months you cannot really tell anything because the focus is on-there has been a lot of public discussion. All the public discussion in the State of Wisconsin over raising the age has obviously had an effect. Our highway crashes went down more for our young people without changing the law than they went down even in Michigan with changing the law.

Mr. RITTER. And it does not occur to you that if one State has a law allowing earlier age drinking, that teenagers being what they are, going out on Saturday night, going to drink in a bar in another State, that that kind of border problem or nonuniformity, that that is not a problem contributing to serious injuries?

Mr. BIRKLEY. I wonder, yes, sir, I do. I wonder why the legislature, for example, in Illinois wanted to drive their kids to drink in Wisconsin instead of at home under supervision. In central Illinois they drink in parks. In northern Illinois where several million people live within our borders, they have been coming to southern Wisconsin since prohibition. And I am not talking since after repeal. They have been coming over because we have always been

« AnteriorContinuar »