Justice Department and MADD Announce Expanded Battle Against Underage Drinking in America

New Study Reveals $58 Billion Price Tag Associated with Underage Drinking

WASHINGTON, D.C. -The Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) today announced a new partnership to mobilize youth and law enforcement officers in 14 communities in a stepped-up fight against underage drinking. The communities are: Austin, TX; Bismarck, ND; Boston, MA; Charleston, WV; Las Vegas, NV; Long Island, NY; Menasha, WI; Nashville, TN; New Haven, CT; Omaha, NE; Providence, RI; St. Paul, MN; Tampa, FL and Vero Beach, FL.

OJJDP and MADD also released a new study showing that the costs of underage drinking in America totals more than $58 billion annually. Earlier research had shown that underage drinking is the nation’s largest youth drug problem, killing 6.5 times more young people than all other illicit drugs combined.

“The price of underage drinking is staggering in dollars and in the loss and destruction of human lives,” said OJJDP Administrator Shay Bilchik. “We all must work together at the national, state, and local levels to tackle this problem.”

OJJDP and MADD announced the partnership and the study in conjunction with the start of the first-ever National Leadership Conference on Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws being held this week (July 12 -14) in Reston, Virginia. OJJDP will assist MADD in expanding its existing “Youth in Action” campaign into the 14 communities as part of its $25 million Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Program, which includes state block grants, discretionary grants and training and technical assistance. There are currently 12 Youth in Action sites.

“Alcohol is the number one drug of choice among our nation’s youth, and it is costing our society an average of $577.91 per year for every household in the United States,” said Karolyn Nunnallee, National President of MADD. “It’s time for our nation’s youth to join forces with our law enforcement community to change the social environment that condones illegal alcohol consumption as an accepted rite of passage. We are grateful to OJJDP for their partnership and support.”

MADD began the Youth in Action campaign in 1996 to directly involve young people in policy and enforcement efforts to stem the tide of underage drinking. The campaign encourages youth groups to team up with law enforcement agencies to combat illegal alcohol sales to minors, conduct merchant compliance stings, curb fake IDs on the Internet, and raise public awareness about parental liability issues related to serving alcohol to minors.

The new study, Underage Drinking: Immediate Consequences and their Costs, was developed by the Pacific Institute through a grant from OJJDP. The study broke down the costs of alcohol use by youth as follows:

Traffic crashes $18,200,000,000
Violent crime $35,900,000,000
Burns $315,000,000
Drownings $532,000,000
Suicide attempts $1,510,000,000
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome $493,000,000
Alcohol poisonings $340,000,000
Treatment $1,008,000,000
TOTAL = $58,379,000,000

The study also indicated that raising the minimum purchase age for alcohol to 21 throughout the country has been a successful strategy for reducing alcohol use and preventing related problems. Since 1975, minimum drinking age laws have prevented more than 17,000 traffic fatalities. MADD spearheaded the effort resulting in passage of the National Uniform Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. Today, all 50 states have minimum drinking age laws set at 21. The study released today shows, however, that, despite tougher laws, minors still drink – and their drinking often results in serious health and social problems.

Copies of Underage Drinking: Immediate Consequences and their Costs and the OJJDP fact sheet Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Program, as well as information about other OJJDP publications, programs and conferences, are available through the OJJDP Website at ojjdp.ncjrs.org and from OJJDP’s Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20857. The toll-free number is 1-800/638-8736. Copies of the study are also available through the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center Website at pire.org/udetc.

Information about other Office of Justice Programs (OJP) bureaus and program offices is available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov. Media should contact OJP’s Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.

Information about MADD is available at www.madd.org or by calling 214-744-6233