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June 16, 1989

Motor Vehicle Fatalities and the Minimum Drinking Age

Author Affiliations

Bozeman, Mont

Bozeman, Mont

JAMA. 1989;261(23):3410-3411. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420230062022

To the Editor.—  Decker et al1 raise a good question: Do young people respond better to general or to youth-targeted measures aimed at reducing fatal accidents? However, the finding by Decker et al that nighttime (alcoholprobable) fatalities among persons aged 19 through 20 years did not decrease after Tennessee enacted stricter anti— driving under the influence of alcohol laws in 1982, but did fall after the drinking age was raised from 19 to 21 years in 1984, is not an adequate answer.The largest decrease in the rate of nighttime fatal crashes (NFCs) among persons aged 19 through 20 years in Tennessee occurred in 1985,2 when more than half this age group could still drink legally under the "grandfather clause" (under which the 21 drinking age was phased in over 2 years). Persons aged 20 years had a particularly large decrease in the rate of NFCs in 1985,