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Mr. FLORIO. Thank you very much.

Let me ask you some fairly obvious questions. Are you not at all concerned about the fact that if a State should decide, for whatever reasons, good or bad, not to increase the drinking age to 21, that therefore they are effectively depriving themselves of resources that may very well be able to be used in correcting highway safety defects, so that they now have the worst of both worlds: They have young people driving and drinking in their State, and they also have road situations that are not being repaired because they have deprived themselves of those resources.

Mr. PORTER. I would be concerned with that if we had a spotty lack of enforcement or lack of change of law, for example, regarding the 55-mile-an-hour speed limit. But that has not occurred. While some States are known to be not as good enforcers as others, across the country uniformly, if I am not mistaken, every state has adopted the 55-mile-an-hour speed limit, and it seems to be an approach that works. The incentive for doing so is so very strong throughout the country that it simply is an approach that has worked.

Mr. Florio. So what you are saying is that the prospect of these highway moneys there is so forceful or in a sense so coercive in adducing people to change their conduct in order to qualify for them, that you expect full compliance with an effort to increase the drinking age to 21, so that everyone will get their money and therefore there will be no one denied those-

Mr. PORTER. Not only that. It could not be done if it was not a subject that evokes a strong public concern in every State. I think that people today in this country have become aware of the magnitude of this problem, the slaughter on the highways, the young people being killed, and that in every State there is a strong group of people that are concerned to see that the law be changed.

And when you give that incentive at the national level, I think you are going to see it quite easily adopted in every State. I am not worried, in other words, that it is going to be lacking enforcement in one State as opposed to another. I think it will work.

Mr. FLORIO. One last point. You heard the representatives from the administration here opposing the proposal that is on the table that we are discussing as being too intrusive and in a sense coercive. I find your suggestion, though I agree with the thrust, I find the arguments that can be raised about your proposal being much more coercive, in the sense of the States paying a price unless they take certain actions.

So in a philosophic vein, it seems to me that if someone is opposed to the idea of a national law one is going to be equally philosophically opposed to the approach that you are taking, which is literally to coerce the States into undertaking a national policy of 21 on pain of losing highway safety money.

So I am more concerned about the fact that I do not think your approach is going to find as much support in the Congress. I have talked with people in Public Works. They are not very enthusiastic about it going forward in the direction that you have talked about. Some have referred people who are concerned about the drinking age to our committee, to induce us to take action, because they see no prospect of it happening in the way that you are advocating.


I happen to feel that this is of sufficient importance, the problem, that we can almost go on a multifronted approach. We do the positive incentives, the carrots that are in operation now, the sticks, and then talk about a national law. I think that covers all bases and I see no particular harm being done by all of those types of things.

But if we are not going to do one, then we have got to pick and choose-if we are not going to do all of them, we have got to pick and choose among which ones. And at this point I have not been persuaded yet that the approach of a national uniform law is not the best, that is most likely to be doable.

Mr. PORTER. Mr. Chairman, I think we are agreeing in a national uniform law. The question is how you get it.

Mr. FLORIO. I understand.

Mr. PORTER. I think that, as well as Congress, you have an administration that has to participate in this final decision. Although I did not hear all the testimony this morning, I think there would be far more resistance in the administration to signing a bill that changed the traditional jurisdiction between the states and the Federal Government and shifted all of that jurisdiction directly to Washington, than there would be to one that provided a very strong economic incentive, administered by Washington, to the States to change their laws, but still left them the option of not doing it if they want to pay that huge penalty.

Mr. FLORIO. The gentleman from New Mexico.
Mr. RICHARDSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I wish to commend our colleague for his legislation and for his interest in this issue. I noticed in your statement that you had experience with a 55 mile an hour limit legislation, too.

Is it your assessment that if we leave the drinking up to the States without any kind of incentive there will be no action on their part?

Mr. PORTER. On drunk driving?
Mr. RICHARDSON. That is right.

Mr. PORTER. Well, there will be some action. But I think that the point that the Chairman made earlier in testimony was that it is going to take so long that the problem will never be properly addressed. And I think we have built up a great head of steam in this country for addressing the problem. The question is simply how to do it best and get the results you want.

Mr. RICHARDSON. I guess my second question is more in terms of a statement. Prior to hearing the administration's statement, I would have probably thought that our colleague's legislation, I guess the stick policy, would have been a little too strong and perhaps a little too punitive.

But, given the administration's statement, I may be persuaded to support it. I can understand the States' rights concern, but what bothered me most was that the administration said they were, concerned, but they are not ready to do anything about it.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to say that I may be persuaded to support our colleague's legislation. I want to commend you for your interest.

Mr. PORTER. Thank you very much for saying that.
Mr. TAUZIN (presiding). Thank you very much, Mr. Richardson.

Congressman Porter, I would like also to commend you for the approach. Has it not in our Nation been traditional that the States are called upon to be responsible for legislating in the drug abuse area?

Mr. PORTER. Yes.

Mr. TAUZIN. And we are talking about alcohol, of course, which is a drug and which is probably the most abused drug in the country. And young people in the States recently-I recall when I was first elected to the State legislature in Louisiana-recently went through the debate over whether or not to accord voting rights at the State level, as the Federal Government had done, at age 18 rather than 21.

And inside of that debate was a great debate over whether or not at 18 a young person should have the right or not have the right to do what every other adult would do, if you will, that is, to use legal drugs in our society, alcohol. All that debate went forward.

Do we not have a great body of law now, I mean a body of evidence and records, to indicate what has happened since the drinking age was reduced in a number of our States, in regard to the propensity of young people to abuse alcohol?

Mr. PORTER. Oh, we sure do. I served also in my State legislature and was elected right at the time when there was that great movement going forward and we lowered the drinking age in Illinois in some respects, and the statistics went right up. Michigan I think is probably the most poignant example, where they lowered the drinking age across the board for liquor, beer, wine, to age 18 and their statistics went right off the graph of young people being killed and injured on their highways.

I think the evidence is overwhelming that the age at which drinking is permitted has a very, very clear effect on the number of fatalities and injuries on the highways. I do not think there is any doubt about that.

Mr. Tauzin. I think probably we ought to recognize the political reality of the problem we face. When the voting age was lowered to 18, there was created in our society, of course—and I authored the bill in Louisiana; I favored it-but there was created in our society a new voting group between the ages of 18 and 21, and that voting group in many respects is very vocal and organized against any efforts in the States to change the drinking age back to 21. And the political reality is that there is great resistance in that voting group in many States to reversing that decision made back in the early seventies.

Would not your bill in effect give, if you will, some measure of political courage to State legislators to decide to reverse that decision, because they could very well argue, look, it is something that we had to do because the Federal Government says if you want Federal funds for highways you have got to do this? Now, if we as a State want to sacrifice our Federal funds to satisfy the political wishes of that age group, that is our choice, and it is a tough one for us and we think we need those State funds.

Does it not create, if you will, a new political dynamic that would greatly enhance the ability of State legislators to reverse that decision of the seventies?



Mr. PORTER. Yes, I think it certainly does. And you are correct, there is a body of young people who, with great equity I think, argue that, if I have to serve my country and can vote, why can I not drink? And I think those arguments were very appealing. I thought so when I voted to lower the drinking age in Illinois, as a matter of fact.

But in the face of the realities of the situation, I think that an approach such as the one my bill, H.R. 2441 offers, to allow the States still to have the decision in their own hands, but puts a great economic pressure upon them to go in that direction. That is really the approach that can work.

Mr. Tauzin. I want to commend you for it, because although I think the chairman's efforts here are certainly aimed at exactly the same direction and with the same intent that you bring to your legislation, I think perhaps you give this movement a new twist, perhaps a new dimension, a new dynamic, that perhaps can see it accomplished in a way that is least offensive to the political proc


That is important, because that is the realities in which we deal. And I commend you for your effort. .

Mr. PORTER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to testify.

Mr. Tauzin. Thank you, sir.

The next witness will be the Honorable Jim Burnett, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Mr. Burnett, welcome to the committee.


TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD Mr. BURNETT. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to be with you and the subcommittee this morning to discuss what I believe is one of the most important issues in connection with seeking a solution to the problem of drunken driving in this country. I would like to introduce those at the table with me. On my

left is Mr. Barry Sweedler, who is the Director of the Bureau of Safety Programs at the Safety Board; and on my right is Mr. John Moulden, who is an alcohol safety specialist with our Bureau of Safety Programs.

After becoming Chairman of the Safety Board in 1982, I directed my staff to begin a search for measures that we thought were most likely to be able to reduce the problem of drunk driving that we have in this country. We identified legislative action as the one area where we could say clearly that the death toll could be reduced in this country, and that action was the raising of the drinking age.

We found that in the early 1970's, following the lowering of the voting age by the Constitution and by action of State legislatures, that the drinking age had also been lowered in many of our Nation's States. And in some of the States we found that shortly after the drinking age was lowered, there was a doubling, sometimes even a tripling, of the accident toll, sometimes of the death toll, in the States that took that action.

In the late 1970's, pioneered by Illinois and Michigan, many of the States began to return their drinking age to 21. Every sophisticated statistical study that has looked at either individual States or the States that have raised the drinking age as a group has found that by raising the drinking age the death toll can be reduced. On the basis of the studies that I have looked at, I believe that if each legislature raised the drinking age to 21, we could save about 1,250 lives a year; the overwhelming majority of them being young Americans.

The problem that we face in drunken driving among the young people of this country is indeed tragic. We are losing about 5,000 lives a year, about 20 percent of the 25,000 total that we lose to drunk driving, among the age 21 and below. That is 20 percent, although that age group represents only less than 10 percent of the population or of the licensed drivers or the miles driven. So there is a disproportionate penalty being paid by that age group in the national tragedy of drunken driving.

In fact, the life expectancy of every age group in this country has improved over the last 75 years, save one. That is the group age 16 to 24. And the leading cause of death in that age group is drunken driving.

Sometimes when we talk about fatalities we ignore the injuries. We are experiencing each day in this country 360 young people injured due to drunken driving, and many of those include severed spinal cords, quadriplegics, paraplegics, some very unsightly blemishes on the faces of young people who have been through windshields.

The review of the accident statistics and the problems that we are having with drunk driving in our country led the Safety Board last year to make a recommendation to the Governors and State legislatures of the 35 States that did not have an age 21 law for drinking for all forms of alcoholic beverages to raise the drinking age to 21 across the board.

Since that time, I have testified before several State legislatures, appeared before groups, and met with public officials in many States. The Vice Chairman of the Safety Board has also been active in this regard. We have managed to secure since that time the raising of the drinking age in eight States.

So far, since 1976, 24 States have raised the drinking age, unfortunately not all of them to 21. Some of the States will raise 1 year at a time, 1 year each legislative session. In this last year 8 States have raised, 4 of them to 21, 4 to other levels. We have hopes in all of those that the level will be raised to 21.

In many other States, one chamber of the legislature will pass age 21 legislation and it would never make it out of committee in the other chamber. Every legislative chamber that has voted on the issue has voted to raise the drinking age.

Now, I am making a very strong point in favor of raising the drinking age. I suppose the most difficult argument to answer when I have met before the legislatures of the country in the States has been the argument that, well, we all know that young people are going to drink even if the drinking age is 21. Most of us grew up when we had an age 21 drinking age and we know that it was extensively violated, and I know that.

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