Fatalities Have Dropped 60 Percent Since Governor Mario Cuomo Signed 1985 Legislation Raising Minimum Drinking Age to 21
Governor Cuomo announced a 60-percent decrease in alcohol-related traffic fatalities since Governor Mario Cuomo raised New York State's drinking age to 21 exactly 30 years ago.
"Governor Mario Cuomo called raising the drinking age a 'victory for common sense.' He was right," said Governor Cuomo. "Countless lives have been saved over the past 30 years, and this administration is committed to continuing this legacy by finding ways to keep alcohol out of the hand of minors, maintain safe roads and educate New Yorkers about the dangers of drinking while driving."
Governor Mario Cuomo spent years fighting to raise the State's minimum drinking age, believing that such an act would save lives by helping to reduce the number of fatal vehicle crashes and to prevent a litany of health issues. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries; school, social, legal, and physical problems; abuse of other drugs; and death from alcohol poisoning.
On December 1, 1985, the legislation he signed that raised the drinking age from 19 to 21 took effect and in the time since, data continues to support Governor Cuomo's assertions. According to the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, a non-profit, university-based research center dedicated to improving highway safety, the number of alcohol-related fatalities in police-reported motor vehicle crashes has dropped steadily from 750 in 1984 to 292 in 2014.
This continued decrease is thanks, in part, to additional efforts by Governor Andrew Cuomo to strengthen enforcement of liquor and traffic laws. In 2014, Governor Cuomo signed legislation imposing a Class D felony charge and a fine of up to $10,000 on drivers convicted of DWI or DWAI three or more times within 15 years. Collaborative efforts between state agencies, the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee and its partners, as well as highway and traffic safety education and enforcement initiatives have also helped contribute to the continued decrease.
This past summer, the Department of Motor Vehicles partnered with state and local law enforcement to make more than 130 arrests and confiscate over 60 fake IDs at concerts throughout the state as part of Operation Prevent, a year-round DMV initiative focused on preventing underage drinking.
Additionally, the State Liquor Authority successfully prosecuted 2,039 violations for selling to a minor in 2014. This represents a 19-percent increase from 2013 and a 97-percent increase from 1,036 prosecutions in 2010. The Authority also administers the Alcohol Training Awareness Program to educate licensees and servers on preventing sales to minors and intoxicated patrons. The number of completed Alcohol Training Awareness Program trainings has more than doubled from 5,407 individuals trained in 2010, to 11,499 in 2014.
Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan said, "The 30th anniversary of this groundbreaking legislation is the perfect time to reflect upon New York State's successes and the number of lives saved by raising the drinking age. As the Acting Chair of the GTSC, I am immensely proud of the work we do to keep New Yorkers safe on the roads. I thank our partners for working with us day in and day out toward this very important common goal."
New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico said, "Increased enforcement, education and stricter laws have all played a role in keeping impaired drivers off of New York's roadways. The State Police are dedicated to making our streets safe for all drivers and passengers. We will continue to work with the Department of Motor Vehicles and our law enforcement partners to curb drunk driving and to prevent needless injuries and deaths."
For more information about the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, which has partnered for decades with 13 member agencies to keep New York’s roadways safe and deter underage drinking, click here.