MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is now in its 35th year. When it was founded in 1980, more than 21,000 people were killed in drunk driving incidents every year. That staggering figure is what MADD vowed to change. And it has. Today that fatality number of 21,000 has been cut in half. But MADD’s work isn’t done yet.
Legal Drinking Age
MADD realizes that teen drinking is still a problem and is making every effort to educate parents and guardians about this issue. Historically, most states voluntarily set their minimum legal drinking age at 21. The late 60s and early 70s brought change and 29 states lowered the legal drinking age to align with the reduced voting and military enlistment age of 18.
The results of this act were cause for distress. Drunk driving incidents and alcohol-related deaths rose significantly in the states that had lowered the drinking age. And it didn’t affect just those states – neighboring states were affected also. For instance, if you lived in a state where the legal drinking age was 21, but you were close to the border of a state that had lowered the legal age to 18, you could easily travel to the neighboring state, drink too much, return to your home state and have an accident. It was evident that this new age limit just wasn’t working. By 1983, 16 of the 29 states with the lowered drinking age increased the minimum age back to 21.
18 Changes Back to 21
The 18 year-old minimum drinking age was a failure and the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving officially recommended that 21 be the minimum age nationally. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan agreed and put a law into effect (The Uniform Drinking Age Act) mandating that all states move the legal drinking age to 21 within the next five years
The return to age 21 as the national legal age for drinking paid off. The National Traffic Highway Administration (NHTSA) estimates that the age change is saving around 900 lives every year. Those 900 lives saved each year equates to more than 25,000 people’s lives being saved. In addition, underage drinking statistics are showing a dramatic drop in alcohol use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders.
Signs of Drinking
If you’ve noticed that your teen has been acting strange, or if you’ve noticed more than one unusual behavior developing at once, it could indicate that your teen (or child of any age) is experimenting with alcohol. If that’s the case, it’s better to detect and fix that behavior as soon as you notice it. Their life, and the lives of others, could depend on it.
Danger Signs to Watch For:
- Your household supply of alcohol is being depleted
- Sudden use of extreme amounts of mouthwash or breath mints
- Daily behavior is more sluggish and less attention to appearance is being made
- Aggressive or argumentative behavior
- Changes circle of friends
- Skips school
- Grades drop
- Suddenly needs more money
There are a number of reasons why teens drink. It could be as simple as curiosity or as troubling as peer pressure or psychological issues. The reasons are endless and often very personal. But, the fact of the matter is that drinking can have very bad consequences, especially for young underage drinkers. Talk to your children and set a good example by being a good role model.
Throughout the year we’ll feature more about MADD.