National Minimum Drinking Age Act 1984

National Minimum Drinking Age Act 1984:
Evaluating our Nation’s Solution to Drunk Driving
& Underage Consumption
Aaron Adams, Tony Rohana, Kevin Kunkel & Jack Nelson.
Ideal Government
• Just
• Fair
• Satisfying to all of its people
Let’s Compromise
• Opposing views lead to an agreement on a
• These compromises don’t always satisfy all
We Aren’t Satisfied!
• Our group wants to address the problem with
our nations policy on underage drinking.
• Interest groups, State Government, and
Federal Government are satisfied but the
youth of our nation are not.
The Law
• According to the United States law, “The 1984
National Minimum Drinking Age Act, requires
that States prohibit persons under 21 years of
age from purchasing or publicly possessing
alcoholic beverages…”
• Like in many situations the Federal
Government will put conditions on the states
to comply otherwise they will lose privileges
which one of my partners will further discuss.
Get With The Times
• Laws must stay relative to the population it
applies to.
• Underage drinking is becoming accepted by the
general population in many subcultures such as
• We came up with a proposed change to the
current law.
National Minimum Drinking Age Act
• Sec. 158, Title 23, United
States Code
• “The Secretary shall withhold
10% of the amount required
to be apportioned to any
state for highway funding, in
which the purchase or public
possession of any alcoholic
beverage by a person who is
less than twenty-one years of
age is lawful.”
Current Law
• 1984
• a.k.a. Federal Uniform
Drinking Age Act
• Common misconception
• Any state allowed to lower
drinking age
• Punished via federal
• States don’t think financial
rewards of minors drinking
would balance 10%
highway funding loss
After 26th Amendment
Lowered voting age to 18
Two-thirds of states lowered drinking age to 18
Some had law of 19
Some had law of 20
Less than a dozen states had a drinking age of 21
Safety & Health
• Not responsible enough to
handle alcohol
• More likely to:
– Binge drink
– Suffer from alcohol
– Become alcoholic
• Brain doesn’t fully develop
until 21
• Irresponsible; drunk
• 1920s
• Attempt to control
irresponsible drinking
• Nearly impossible to
• Appeal of alcohol being
“Forbidden fruit”
• Obeyed by few, difficult
to keep order
• Government lost out on
sales tax
Federal Government
• The Legislative Branch is
the biggest actor in
alcohol consumption
and sale laws
– National Minimum
Drinking Age Act of 1984
• Committee on
Transportation and
– Highways and Transit
Federal Government
• Judicial Branch could
possibly overrule
existing laws
– South Dakota v. Dole
• Executive Branch does
not play a major role
in current policy
– Could not mandate any
change in the law
State Governments
• States have jurisdiction over alcohol
consumption laws
– Each state has its law making procedure to enact
• States currently have widely varying laws
when it comes to liquor
State Governments
• State governments
regulate distribution of
liquor licenses
• Allows government to
control the sale of
• For a national change in
the drinking age every
state must agree to a
• Enforcement mostly handled by local police
• National Parks Service handles cases in
National Parks
• State Park jurisdiction can vary by state
Non-Governmental Actors
(i.e. Interest Groups): MADD
• US is a representative democracy;
– Non-government actors at all levels of government.
– Participate and Influence public policy.
– Grassroots/indirect lobbying, direct lobbying, & education campaigns.
• Cindy Lightner
– 13 year old daughter killed by a drunk driver in 1980.
– Founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving(MADD) in 1980
• “To aid the victims of crimes performed by individuals
driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, to aid the
families of such victims and to increase public awareness
of the problem of drinking and drugged driving”
MADD’s Tactics & Influence:
• 1980-1984: MADD engages in a grassroots and
national campaign.
• Grassroots and or indirect lobbying (local &
– Massive campaign to shape social and cultural
discourse surrounding drunk driving.
– Grassroots/indirect lobbying, direct lobbying, &
education campaigns.
• Direct lobbying of Congress (national):
– Social influence + political context of 1984
= public policy influence
• Lowered drinking age = good public policy.
• “she buttonholed congressmen while
representatives of MADD chapters flooded
their offices with letters and telegrams”
• President Reagan’s change of heart.
Success of NMDA:
• Initial Context of Success:
– Create major social change in the attitude and behavior of
Americans toward drunk driving:
– NMDA signed into law in July of 1984.
• Declines in drunk driving deaths since the 1980s:
– Decline of alcohol-related traffic accidents since 1980s.
– Statistics not what they appear to be?
• Transforming the social discourse surrounding drunk driving:
– Drunk driving viewed as socially unacceptable.
– New laws more tough/strict on drunk driving.
Limitations of NMDA ‘84:
Shift in purpose (i.e. new context for
• Focus from drunk driving to underage
– Age discrimination:
• Adult responsibilities associated
with 18 should not exclude alcohol
– Creation of a binge drinking culture
among the nation’s youth:
• Binge drinking in less controlled
• Concern for colleges and
(00:55 – 2:10)
Our Conclusion of NMDA ‘84:
• NMDA’s efforts to combat drunk driving = productive:
• Strict regulation of drinking = counterproductive:
– National alcoholic prohibition from 1920 to 1933 failed
because it was expensive, unenforceable and lead to an
increase in illegal and underground activities.
• In 2002 Candice Lightner stated that MADD “has
become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had
ever wanted or envisioned… I didn’t start MADD
to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with
the issue of drunk driving”(Washington Times).
Our Policy Recommendation/Alternative:
The National Pilot
Alcohol Education Program Act of 20??:
• Predicated notion: education is the best alternative to
teach youth to learn how to drink responsibly, and
hold them accountable for their actions, as done with
– Through executive and legislative approval, and a
combination of cooperation and partnership
between state and local governments and our
public education system(s)
– Amend the current law in two fundamental ways:
1. Establish three new criteria for highway funding
and or lack of.
Policy Recommendations/Alternatives
• 2:
• Be a model for reality-based alcohol education and
require the development and implementation on a stateby-state basis.
• Require guidelines for eligibility and suspension of licenses
proposed in the model program.
• Provide accurate and unbiased alcohol education;
acknowledge the social reality of alcohol in our society,
but would advocate neither consumption nor abstinence.
Instead it would seek only to construct a cultural and
social context(s) for responsible choices where alcohol is
• Be taught by a certified alcohol instructor, trained to cover
legal, ethical, and health issues of the alcoholic

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