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their favorite watering hole. But their young people come over. Obviously there is a border crossing phenomenon.
I think they are fortunate they are drinking under supervision than in the other place where they have got to drink it all and drive home.
But I do not think it is wise to drive people to drink, and that is essentially what the higher legal drinking age does. If it does not drive them into the neighboring State, it will drive them out into the boondocks or drive them out in the sandspits or where they think they are not going to get caught, and it tends to involve more driving
I know that the State of Wisconsin--
Mr. BIRKLEY. I think uniformity is a desirable thing, I do agree; and I think the States should agree to get uniform and to do it at the age at which it makes it more sense and also the age at which it makes constitutional sense without saying to one group of legal adults that you are equal for everything except drinking.
Mr. RITTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Dowdy. We have a vote on. And I was amused to note that you oppose on constitutional grounds a uniform age of 21, but yet you seem to say it is OK if that uniform age was 18. I disagree with some of the points you have raised and am prepared to support the chairman's bill.
I thank both the witnesses for their testimony.
Mr. FLORIO. Gentlemen, thank you very much. We appreciate your participation.
[Whereupon, at 12:05 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
PROHIBIT THE SALE OF ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES TO PERSONS UNDER 21 YEARS OF AGE
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 1983
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON COMMERCE,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:30 a.m., in room 2322, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. James J. Florio (chairman) presiding.
Mr. FLORIO. The subcommittee will come to order.
This is the second day of hearings that we are holding on the bill, H.R. 3870, a bill to prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages to those under 21 throughout the Nation. Most of the witnesses at our first day of hearings favored a national uniform drinking age of 21.
Today I expect some debate over the method of attaining this objective and also some argument that this is not a proper subject for Federal legislation. I am looking forward to hearing the testimony of today's list of distinguished witnesses.
I have read the prepared testimony and wish to say at the outset that so far I have seen nothing that persuades me that we should sacrifice the major principal of this legislation as a result of any of the arguments that are put forth in the testimony. The alternatives proposed will take, as far as I am concerned, too long or are too uncertain and contain a number of self-defeating defects.
As for the constitutional argument, that Congress is prohibited from preserving lives in interstate commerce because of a clause enacted to protect the power of States to remain dry, I simply find the contention without substantial merit. Of course, the values of federalism are important and worthy of respect, but so are the values of the Union, the national commonwealth. We created the Union to deal with national problems, and the chaos on our highways and the carnage on our highways is now rising to the level of being a national problem.
The interaction of that situation with drinking and driving and the disproportionately large number of people so involved who are in the age group that we are talking about provides us, it seems to me, with a legitimate basis for feeling that this is a national problem and therefore must be resolved in a national forum.
Nevertheless, I am looking forward to today's testimony. It is a rare situation where debate and criticism do not improve our final product. I am hopeful that the debate that goes on through the
course of not only these hearings but through the remainder of the legislative process, will result in an improved legislative product that will deal with the problem that we are concerned, I think all are concerned, about dealing with.
It is my intention to move forward in an expeditious fashion after these hearings and to poll the other members of the subcommittee and to schedule markup of this matter at the earliest possible convenient date.
Mr. Lent is on his way and has asked that we go forward in his absence, and therefore, if Mr. Porter is here, we would ask the Honorable John E. Porter to come forward. If not, then we will go to our first panel of witnesses, which is made up of the Honorable Diane Steed, the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as the Honorable James Burnett, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Are any of our witnesses here? If not, we will go forward to Mr. Ben Kelley.
Oh, I am sorry. Ms. Steed, we are very pleased to have you with us this morning and we welcome you to the committee. As with all of our witnesses through the course of the day, your testimony will be included in the record in its entirety and you may feel free to proceed as you see fit in a summary fashion. STATEMENT OF DIANE K. STEED, ADMINISTRATOR-DESIGNATE,
NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION Ms. STEED. Good morning, Mr. Chairman. We appreciate your invitation to testify today.
Before I proceed with the testimony, which I know you have, let me introduce the people that I have with me. On my left is Clay Hall, Director of Program Development. To my immediate right is Paul Levy, who is Director of Program Evaluation. They are both from the Office of Alcohol Countermeasures. And to my far right is John Womack, Assistant Chief Counsel.
I think what I would like to do is to skim briefly through the testimony, and then spend most of our time answering any questions that you may have.
The problem of alcohol abuse by younger drivers became much more acute in the 1970's, as you know, when many of the States lowered their drinking age to 18, in line with the constitutional amendment that lowered the voting age to 18. Our data on injuries and fatalities on the highway began to show that these younger drivers were not only involved in a disproportionate number of accidents, but they were also overrepresented in serious and fatal accidents involving drinking and driving.
Statistically, the rate of alcohol-involved fatal accidents for drivers under 21 is almost three times the rate for drivers between the ages of 25 and 45. Drunk driving is the leading cause of death for the 16- to 21-year-old age group. This is clearly a problem of tragic proportions for our young people, one that deserves our best preventative efforts and attention.
We are encouraged, however, that State legislatures are beginning to show an increasing inclination to return the drinking age to 21, or at least to begin raising it, some in steps, some in one fell
swoop. At the beginning of 1983, 16 States had established 21 as the minimum age for the purchase of any alcohol. Six other States and the District of Columbia have 21 as the minimum for the purchase of distilled spirits.
During the 1983 legislative sessions, Delaware and Alaska raised the age for any alcohol to 21, Oklahoma raised the age for beer to 21. Bills were considered in 27 other States during 1983 and passage appears likely in several during the 1984 session.
From our accident data, it seems likely that each State that passes such a law will experience a significant reduction in the number of young people killed in alcohol-related crashes. A study of eight States' experience when they raised the drinking age shows that an average 28-percent reduction in alcohol-related fatalities for drivers under 21 can occur when the drinking age is raised.
Congress, as you know, has already enacted legislation to encourage the States to improve their control of drunk driving. We have a new grant program under which the States are eligible for increased funds for alcohol programs if they meet certain criteria. Although the effort has just begun, we are very encouraged to see the progress that is occurring.
I know there was some concern originally that the legislation was too tough, that the criteria were too tough. But we are beginning to see a number of States take advantage of this opportunity.
It is our view that raising the drinking age to 21 will save lives and that we should continue to encourage the States to raise the drinking age. We believe that a strong trend has already been established in this direction through the grassroots efforts of many, many organizations, and we are extremely pleased with the kind of ground swell that we see.
The Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving is expected to conclude its work this fall with a strong recommendation for the 21 drinking age. This recommendation, together with the continued lobbying of private citizens and the availability of grant funds under Public Law 97-364, should strengthen the trend during the 1984 sessions of the legislatures. I believe that we are moving steadily in the right direction and that the current efforts will achieve the desired result without the need for additional Federal legislation.
Furthermore, the enactment of a Federal drinking age could impose substantial enforcement costs on State governments, which we are not prepared to underwrite from the Federal level. While we believe that these enforcement costs are well worth the investment, we believe these choices are more appropriately made by the States. Therefore, we cannot support the enactment of H.R. 3870.
That is the basic testimony. We would be very happy to answer any questions.
Ms. Steed's prepared statement follows:)
STATEMENT OF DIANE K. STEED, ADMINISTRATOR-DESIGNATE,
NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BEFORE THE SUB COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, TRANSPORTATION, AND TOURISM, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON
ENERGY AND COMMERCE,
OCTOBER 19, 1983
Thank you for your invitation to testify today on the subject
of H.R. 3870, a bill to restrict the sale of alcohol in interstate
are Clayton Hall, Director of Program
Development, and Paul Levy, Director of Program Evaluation, in the
Office of Alcohol Countermeasures.
The purpose of the bill is to prevent the sale of alcoholic
beverages to any individual who is under the age of 21, if the
beverage has traveled in interstate commerce or if the sale is
made in an establishment which is in interstate commerce.
The subject of the hazards that alcohol poses to young drivers
is of great concern to me and to the Department. I would tnerefore
like to provide you with our views about the effects of raising
the drinking age to 21 on highway safety.
The problem of alcohol abuse by younger drivers became much
more acute in the early 1970's when many States lowered their
drinking age to 18, in line with the constitutional amendment
that lowered the voting age to 18.
The data on highway in
juries and fatalities began to show that these younger drivers
were not only involved in a disproportionate number of accidents
but that they were also overrepresented in serious and fatal
accidents involviny alcohol abuse.
Statistically, the rate of
alcohol involved fatal accidents for drivers under 21 is almost