Remarks on Signing the National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Week Proclamation

 

December 15, 1986

 

Thank you very much, and Secretary Dole, Diane Steed, ladies and gentlemen, it's always a pleasure to share the podium with people like David Stern and Jerry Sachs, Rich Benson, Jim Adduci, Bobby Brown, and Rhonda Leavenworth.

 

Since our administration came to Washington, we've made a special cause of making the future better for young lives. We've worked for lower taxes and fewer regulations, so that young people could have futures of hope and opportunity in a growing economy. We've worked to make quality the top priority in education, so young people would have the tools to take advantage of those opportunities. We've worked for an America that was so strong that no one would dare challenge us, so that our young people today and in the future can live in a world at peace. And with Nancy taking the lead, we've fought drug and alcohol abuse, so that they can enjoy that world of peace and opportunity to the fullest. That's why I'm so pleased to be with you today and to sign this proclamation. I can't think of any group of Americans that has done more to save young lives than those mothers and others who have made the battle against drunk and drugged driving a national crusade.

 

Drunk and drugged driving is our nation's number one killer of young people. Last year more than 4 in every 10 teenage deaths in America were caused by car crashes, and in more than half of those, someone had been drinking. Yes, alcohol-related driving killed more than 3,000 of our young people last year -- 3,000 who could have taken advantage of all the opportunities that America has to offer, 3,000 who could have in turn helped build America, and 3,000 who would have been part of the adventure of America's future.

 

Of course, drunk and drugged driving has taken its toll among people of all ages. Each year alcohol-related crashes injure more than a half a million Americans, or one American every minute, every day, day in and day out, throughout the year. And what this means is that two out of every five Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives.

 

Well, that's why 2 years ago I signed a law that put the Federal Government on the side of a 21-year-old minimum drinking age nationwide. We knew all too well that when it came to saving young lives -- and all lives -- the higher drinking age was not a fad or experiment but a proven success. Almost every State that had raised the drinking age to 21 had seen a significant drop in teenage driving fatalities -- drops as high as 25 to 30 percent. When I signed that bill, fewer than half of our States had a 21-year-old minimum drinking age, and I'm happy to tell you that today all but seven do. And I'm happy to tell you, also, that the new minimum drinking age is working. Last year the number of drunk drivers killed in crashes was down 26 percent from 1980. This was more than twice the drop in all driving deaths in the same time. Put another way, the Department of Transportation estimates that because of the drop in drunk driving deaths 5,000 more Americans lived through this past year.

 

But, my friends, there's so much more to do, and it's not government that can do it. It's we ourselves, we Americans, in our homes, with our friends, in our communities. The designated driver program is one thing we can do. When a group goes to a party, a ball game, a restaurant, or a bar, one doesn't drink. He or she drives the others home safely. I hope that restaurants, bars, and arenas all over America will sponsor designated driver programs. And designated driver program or not, if you see a friend who's had too much and is heading for the car, be a real friend -- stop him or her and drive them home yourself. We can all save lives if we remember that friends don't let friends drive drunk. And if he asks why you're doing it, just say it's because you care.

 

There are other ways to show we care. I'm announcing today our new The Road To Winning program. The Road To Winning will be a public-private partnership between State governments and communities. It'll bring professional and college athletes into schools to talk about drugs, alcohol, and safe driving. It'll help America's winning athletes show America's young people The Road To Winning -- a safe and productive life.

 

Now, I have a special message for America's young people. The holiday season is here. It's a time for getting together with family and friends, for gathering around a tree and exchanging gifts, for remembering our faiths, and for celebrating. There's no happier time of the year, so let's work together to keep it that way. When you go to holiday parties make sure someone in your group doesn't drink, so he or she can drive everyone else home safely to those who love them. In this festive season, Nancy and I both ask you -- for yourselves, for your family, for your country -- keep alcohol and cars apart. Just say no to tragedy. Just say yes to happy holidays and a happy new year for everyone that you care about.

 

Now I think there's something around here waiting for me to sign, and I'd better get to it. [Laughter]

 

Note: The President spoke at 1:35 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his opening remarks, he referred to Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of Transportation; Diane Steed, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration; David Stern, Commissioner of the National Basketball Association; Jerry Sachs, president of the Capital Centre; Richard Benson, president of the International Association of Auditorium Managers; Jim Aducci, president of the American Baseball League; and Rhonda Leavenworth, president of Students Against Driving Drunk at Washington and Lee High School in Arlington, VA.