Remarks at a White House Ceremony Observing National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Week

December 16, 1985

Secretary Dole [of Transportation], ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon, and welcome to the Old Executive Office Building. You know, I can remember when it was the "New'' Executive Office Building -- [laughter] -- the carriage entrance. [Laughter] But it's an honor to welcome you all here during this National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Week, a week when Americans throughout the country will reflect upon an urgent and worthy cause -- the battle against drunk driving.

Year in and year out, drunk driving levies its gruesome toll upon our nation. Every 12 months, it kills some 25,000 Americans -- one death every 20 minutes, 70 a day, 500 a week. Every 12 months, drunk and drugged driving injures some 700,000. Every 12 months, it accounts for more than $20 billion in medical costs, insurance payments, and lost production. For young people from 16 to 24, drunk and drugged driving represents now the leading cause of death. Indeed, if a foreign power did to America what drunk drivers do in just a single day, we would consider it an act of war. And to their credit, millions of Americans have done just that, including you -- gone to war against drunk driving.

Today in America we have people like Secretary Dole, who is doing all within her power to make our highways safer. We have people like Jim Aducci, the Chairman of the National Commission on Drunk Driving, and John Volpe, the Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving, who are devoting untold hours of their time to studying the problem with a view to recommending specific solutions. Perhaps most important, we have people like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and thousands of others like them -- everyday Americans, mothers and fathers, teachers and students, who are, frankly, fed up with drunk driving and absolutely determined to bring it to an end. The progress has been encouraging. During our administration, fatalities from drunk driving have fallen to their lowest point in more than two decades. And between 1980 and 1984, the number of fatally injured drunk drivers dropped from 14,000 to 11,000, a decrease of 24 percent. The use of seat belts, the best defense against drunk drivers, is up.

Concern through the country, moreover, has led to the passage of important new laws. Today we have child safety seat laws in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. And a year-and-a-half ago, it was my honor to sign into law a measure encouraging a uniform drinking age of 21 across the country. And I'm pleased to be able to tell you that 37 States have adopted the law and that efforts are afoot to raise the drinking age in still more States. I'm sure you'll agree there's no measure more vital to the safety and well-being of our young people. But perhaps the most effective work against drunk driving has involved not government, but private, volunteer efforts, efforts like the seminars sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the work of student groups to reduce drunk driving among young people. Today I'm pleased to announce a new private sector initiative that I know you'll find inspiring.

Jerry Sacks is the president of the Capital Centre sports arena here in the Washington area. Some time ago, Jerry realized that fans at sports events often need to be reminded not to drink and then drive home. So, Jerry founded TEAM, Techniques of Effective Alcohol Management. And under the TEAM plan, those who sell drinks at the Capital Centre put up banners and wear buttons that urge their customers not to drink and drive. And during the game, more reminders are flashed across the scoreboard. The whole atmosphere in the stadium is transformed into one that encourages not only enjoyment but safety. Now, TEAM is going national. In an effort supported by David Stern, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, the International Association of Auditorium Managers, the National Automobile Dealers' Association, the GEICO Insurance Company, CBS, and the Department of Transportation -- six major arenas will join the TEAM plan, which has worked so well here in the Nation's Capital. Beginning tonight, moreover, CBS will air public service announcements during their broadcasts of NBA games. These announcements will feature basketball stars, including one of my favorites, Magic Johnson, of the Los Angeles Lakers. All told, this new team effort will reach millions, and it's just getting started. To Jerry Sacks and to all of you who've worked so hard to bring TEAM into being, my congratulations.

This holiday season, as American families gather from around the country, they'll be able to drive on roads that are safer than they used to be, and getting safer still. Everyone in this room has helped to make that possible. And now, at the beginning of National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Week, I want to give you -- and I think on behalf of an awful lot of people -- my heartfelt thanks. And just thank you for what you're doing, and God bless you. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 3:36 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. He signed Proclamation 5419, which proclaimed National Drunk and Drunk Driving Awareness Week, on December 7.