The ability of teenagers to buy alcoholic beverages illegally at retail establishments across Santa Monica is limited, according to data released Monday by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Los Angeles Chapter.
To mark the 21st anniversary of the 21 minimum drinking age law, teenage members of the MADD Youth in Action program went undercover in cooperation with law enforcement agencies in 21 cities, including Santa Monica, over the weekend to conduct a national “Night of Compliance.”
Members of the Youth in Action teams attempted to buy alcohol at stores that sell liquor to determine the number of retail establishments illegally selling alcohol to people under 21.
A total of 867 checks in 21 cities across the country were made. Nationwide, only 82 percent of the stores were found to be in compliance with the minimum drinking age law.
In Santa Monica, 21 compliance checks were made, and only two stores were found to be out of compliance.
“The Night of Compliance gives us a snapshot of the nation’s alarming rate of illegal alcohol sales,” said Glynn Birch, MADD national president.
Since the 21 Minimum Drinking Age Act was signed on July 17, 1984, by President Ronald Reagan, all states have passed laws prohibiting persons under 21 from purchasing or possessing alcohol beverage products. However, in 14 states, it is still legal for someone under age 21 to consume alcohol.
“It’s important to mark the 21st anniversary of the national 21 drinking age law because of the more than 21,000 young lives the law has helped save,” said April Snook, community programs coordinator of MADD Los Angeles. “MADD supports the 21 law because it saves young lives and protects young minds. It’s laws like these that help keep alcohol — the number one drug choice among the nation’s youth — out of the hands of those it hurts the most.”
MADD’s Youth In Action program for teens is a means by which the environment that often condones and contributes to underage drinking can be explored.
“The fact of the matter is, for those under 21 to get their hands on alcohol, someone over 21 has to provide or purchase it for them. Unfortunately, this is commonplace because underage drinking is seen as a rite of passage,” Snook said.
More than 2,200 15 to 20 year olds were killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes in 2003. But, in the past 21 years, there has been a 50 percent drop in the number of 15 to 20 year olds killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes and the number of 15 to 20 year old drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“While we have made great progress in reducing teen drinking and driving over the past 21 years, it still remains a major threat to teens today,” Birch said. “It’s not okay to just tell our kids not to drink and drive. The message to all teens is not to drink at all until age 21.”
On average, teenagers begin drinking alcohol at age 16. Extensive research on the development of the human brain shows that it continues to develop through the early 20s.
“The Santa Monica Police Department is committed to making underage drinking enforcement a priority,” said Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts. “We welcome the opportunity to work with youth to be part of the solution and combat one of the toughest public safety challenges facing our community.”
“It’s the responsibility of everyone, including parents, teens, law enforcement, and retail establishments, to limit alcohol access to youth,” said Joe Cruz, Alcohol Beverage Control representative. “We are dedicated to help keep underage drinking in check in our backyard and in our state through a coordinated compliance check program.”
In addition to Santa Monica, compliance checks were made in Albuquerque, Atlanta, Boston, Clarksville, Tennessee, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Fairfax County, Virginia, Gwinnett County, Georgia, Honolulu, Jacksonville, Louisville, Minneapolis, Nashville, Reno, Sacramento, San Angelo, Texas, Seattle, Springfield, Illinois and Springfield, Missouri.Founded in 1980, MADD is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Its mission is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking. For more information, visit www.madd.org or call 1-800-GET-MADD.