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Cuomo: Higher drinking age has led to fewer alcohol-related traffic deaths over past 30 years

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces New York's involvement in the Under 2 MOU coalition, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo attributed a significant drop in the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities to raising the legal drinking age — and the work of his father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo. 

It was Gov. Mario Cuomo who pushed for increasing the state's drinking age from 19 to 21. Legislation was approved in 1985 and signed into law — 30 years ago Tuesday — by the current governor's father. 

Since then, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there has been a 60 percent decrease in alcohol-related traffic deaths. 

"Gov. Mario Cuomo called raising the drinking age a 'victory for common sense.' He was right," Cuomo said. "Countless lives have been saved over the past 30 years, and this administration is committed to continuing this legacy by finding ways to keep alcohol out of the hand of minors, maintain safe roads and educate New Yorkers about the dangers of drinking while driving." 

Cuomo's office cited statistics released by the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, which found that the number of deaths in alcohol-related crashes fell from 750 in 1984 to 292 in 2014. 

The governor has built off his father's efforts by signing legislation to make it a class D felony if you're charged with driving while intoxicated or driving while ability impaired three or more times within a 15-year period. Those guilty of the crime also face a fine of up to $10,000. 

In recent months, New York has cracked down on underage drinking. Over the summer, law enforcement agencies and the state Department of Motor Vehicles made more than 130 arrests and confiscated more than 60 fake IDs at concert venues throughout the state. 

The State Liquor Authority has played a key role in the state's anti-underage drinking efforts. The agency prosecuted 2,039 violations for selling to a minor in 2014 — an increase from 1,036 prosecutions in 2010, according to Cuomo's office. 

SLA representatives hold training sessions for bar owners and servers on how they can avoid selling alcoholic beverages to minors and drunk customers. 

New York State Police Superintendent said the educational efforts and stricter enforcement have helped reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes and fatalities. 

"The state police are dedicated to making our streets safe for all drivers and passengers," he said. "We will continue to work with the Department of Motor Vehicles and our law enforcement partners to curb drunk driving and to prevent needless injuries and deaths." 


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