Voas, R. B.
; Fell, James C.
; and Fisher, Deborah A.
In Traffic Safety and Alcohol Regulation: A Symposium
pgs. 98-108 , (2007)Perhaps no alcohol safety measure has attracted more research and public attention or shown more consistent evidence for its effectiveness than the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) 21 law in the United States. Enacted in 1984, it was the first law for which the U.S. Congress, under the Highway Safety Act, imposed a sanction on states that did not enact a MLDA-21 law by withholding federal highway construction funds. In 1995, Congress imposed a similar sanction on states failing to enact zero tolerance (ZT) laws that made it an offense for drivers aged 20 and younger to operate a vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their system. Between 1982 and 1998, the population-adjusted involvement rate of drinking drivers aged 20 and younger in fatal crashes decreased 59%. MLDA-21 laws have been shown to be associated with this decline. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that MLDA laws save more than 900 lives a year in traffic fatalities alone, and there is substantial evidence that ZT laws are saving additional lives. Recently, some states have adopted graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws that restrict nighttime driving for young drivers, thus potentially further reducing alcohol-related crashes among persons aged 20 and younger.