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National Minimum Drinking Age

Alcohol is the number one youth drug problem in America and an issue that carries over when teens are behind the wheel. Young drivers are less likely than adults to drink and drive, but their crash risk is substantially higher when they do. Drivers are considered to be alcohol-impaired when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is greater than 0.01. In 2012, 27 percent of 16-20-year-old passenger vehicle drivers fatally injured in crashes had BACs of 0.08 percent or higher (legally intoxicated).

Until the 1980s, each state had its own laws determining the minimum drinking age. This led to the creation of “blood borders,” where teens would drive to states with lower drinking ages and be involved in fatal crashes on the return trip. In 1984, following an overall increase in alcohol-related traffic fatalities and injuries, Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act (NMDA), or the Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act, requiring states to legislate and enforce 21 as a minimum age for purchasing and publicly possessing alcoholic beverages. Since July 1988, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enforced a legal drinking age of 21.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( NHTSA), by the end of 2005 25,000 American lives have been saved due to the NMDA, and over 50 published studies have confirmed the effectiveness of raising the drinking age. There has been a median decrease of 17 percent in fatal teen crashes since the NMDA went into effect. NHTSA estimates that laws establishing 21 as the minimum purchase age in every state saved 3,258 lives during 2007-11.

 

drinking and car keys

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