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Notable Date: Legal Drinking Age Signed 23 Years Ago, Saves Nearly 1,000 Lives a Year

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RISMEDIA, July 19, 2007—At least 23,000 people are alive today because the 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) was signed into federal law on this day 23 years ago. With the help of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), this law became a reality and now saves about 1,000 lives a year.

“Twenty-one is a powerful tool in a toolbox that should include enforcement of the law, adult accountability when providing alcohol to minors, and responsible marketing and advertising of alcohol,” said Glynn R. Birch, MADD national president.

Sen. Lautenberg said, “Far too many young people die from alcohol-related crashes each year. My landmark minimum drinking age law has made our roads and our communities safer. It has saved countless lives and will continue to do so.”

Sen. Dole, added, “I am proud to join MADD in commemorating the anniversary of this highway safety milestone. As then-Transportation Secretary, I advocated for raising the drinking age to 21 to prevent disabling, crippling injuries and save lives. Today, thanks to this law and the dedicated efforts of MADD, an estimated 23,000 lives have been saved — and thousands more family members and friends have not had to suffer the loss of a loved one in an alcohol-related automobile crash. With the ongoing work of MADD in support of this law, we can continue to avert thousands of tragedies.”

Research shows that the sooner youth drink the more likely they are to become alcohol dependant and to drive drunk. More than 6,000 people died in 2002 from underage-drinking-related causes (alcohol-related traffic fatalities, homicides, suicides, and other unintentional injuries). More than 2,200 of these were alcohol-related traffic fatalities according to the Institute of Medicine.

“The 21 law makes a big difference but we know more attention needs to be paid to who is providing the alcohol to minors,” said Birch.    

MADD’s mission is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and to prevent underage drinking. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving includes increased high-visibility enforcement such as sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols that also involve enforcing zero tolerance laws for those under 21; mandating alcohol ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, including minors; exploring and developing advanced technologies to prevent a vehicle from being driven by someone who is drunk and mobilizing support for all of these strategies.

For more information, visit http://www.madd.org or call 1-800-GET-MADD.

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