2008-08-28 / News

GOHS affirms its opposition to changing MLDA

Today in the wake of controversial coverage of efforts to lower the national drinking age from 21-to-18, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) affirmed its opposition to any attempts to change the so-called MLDA (Minimum Legal Drinking Age).

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports show the MDLA has reduced traffic fatalities involving drivers aged 18-to-20 years old by 13-percent, saving 900 lives every year. Approximately 36 of those young lives saved each year are in Georgia. "So changing the drinking age now would be like losing a whole classroom of our college students for an entire graduating class in Georgia each year," said GOHS Director Bob Dallas.

GOHS supports the position of both Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) that lowering the drinking age would not only step-up underage drinking but binge drinking as well.

"The 21-Law is working every day to save lives in Georgia," said GOHS Director Dallas. "Lowering the legal drinking age would have the undeniable effect of making alcohol more accessible to youth. If Georgia lowers the drinking age, more of our young people will drink and drive and more of our young people will die."

The strong GOHS opposition was announced in response to the Amethyst Initiative, which was launched last month with support from many college chancellors and presidents who say they believe the 21-year-old drinking age is not working and has created a culture of binge drinking. So far, about 114 university leaders nationwide have signed their support for the initiative.

The Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) was enacted by Congress in 1984. By 1988, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had enacted MLDA 21 laws. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), decades of research have consistently shown that the enactment of MLDA 21 Laws has been one of the most effective countermeasures ever implemented to reduce alcohol-related fatalities. Such laws have been estimated to have saved a total of 25,000 lives since 1975.

"We are dismayed that some college and university presidents have signed onto an initiative aimed at repealing this life-saving law," said GHSA Chairman Christopher Murphy. "Both research and handson experience of state highway safety agencies indicates this law has saved countless lives. Underage drinking remains a serious problem that needs to be addressed, but lowering the drinking age would be a gigantic step backward for highway safety."

In Georgia, the following institutions have signed their support for the Amethyst Initiative: Oglethorpe University, Georgia Southwestern State University and Spellman College. Morehouse College President Robert Michael Franklin Jr., who was initially a backer of the controversial effort, has now withdrawn his support. The Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety applauds the Morehouse decision and the 101 Georgia colleges and universities that remain standing in opposition to this wrong-headed initiative and refuse to give it their support.

"We want to thank the majority of Georgia colleges and universities for making the right choice to maintain the drinking age where it is," said GOHS Director Bob Dallas. "We especially thank Morehouse College for placing the wellbeing of its students in the forefront and instead withdrawing its support to the Amethyst Initiative. Now we encourage Oglethorpe, Georgia Southwestern State and Spellman colleges to reconsider their support of this misguided stance."

Why is the Amethyst Initiative so ill-advised? Because lowering the legal drinking age in Georgia will result in more deaths of our teens who kill themselves and others by driving impaired. In no uncertain terms, these institutions of higher learning are advocating a deadly public health and public safety policy change. They ignore data and the experience of other countries which are also experiencing an alarming increase in binge drinking even though their drinking ages are lower.

"Quite frankly, these colleges and universities are looking for a quick fix," says Director Dallas. "It's akin to prescribing a smart pill for calculus rather than showing up to take the course."

"This deadly Amethyst Initiative also ignores the fact that many Georgia teens turn 18 while still in high school and most don't go to college," said Dallas. "That simply pushes responsibility for handling the underage drinking problem down to high school teachers and principals, and parents of students still at home."

GOHS applauds the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, Georgia State University and other Georgia institutions which have comprehensive programs to educate their students about the deadly dangers of underage drinking. "Many of our colleges have been at the forefront of combating underage drinking by establishing curriculums to help change the student drinking culture, tightening alcohol policies on campus, and promoting responsible beverage sales in their communities," said Director Dallas. "These approaches combined with effective enforcement have reduced impaired driving and related crashes and injuries on our roadways."

Please visit the following websites to learn more about the possible adverse effects of lowering the drinking age and the organizations who oppose such an action:

.. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration www.nhtsa.dot.gov

.. Governor's Highway Safety Association www.ghsa.org

.. Mothers Against Drunk Driving www.madd.org

.. Support 21 Coalition www.why21.org

For more information on the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, please call 404-656-6996 or visit www.gahighwaysafety.org.

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