President of the United States Remarks on Drunk Driving Standard (10/23/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

                                                                  For
Immediate Release                          October 23, 2000


                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
               TO ESTABLISH NATIONAL DRUNK DRIVING STANDARD

                              The Rose Garden

10:05 A.M. EDT


     THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  I really believe that everything that
needs to be said about this has just been said.  I want to thank Millie
Webb for sharing her story and for her crusading leadership.  I want to
thank another person who is here today, Brenda Frazier, who came to the
White House in 1998 to talk about the tragic death of her nine year old
daughter, Ashley, by a drunk driver.

     And I want to thank all the members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving
for the grassroots campaign that has galvanized our nation and changed the
way we think and now, thank goodness, the way policy makers behave when it
comes to this issue.

     I thank you, Secretary Slater.  And I thank all the members of
Congress who have worked on this.  We did have strong bipartisan support,
it finally was able to overcome the lobbying pressure that Millie
described.

     But I want to say a special word of appreciation to Representative
Nita Lowey, from New York, who is here to my right; and to Senator Frank
Lautenberg.  They have worked for more than five years on this legislation.
And we wouldn't be here today without their leadership.

     And let me say a special word of good wishes to Senator Lautenberg.
He is retiring after 18 years in the Senate.  And he is leaving a true
legacy as a champion for the children, the families and the economy of this
nation, and we wish him well.  Thank you, Frank.  (Applause.)

     I'd also like to thank the other members of the administration who are
here, who worked on this legislation, including Admiral Loy, the Commander
of the Coast Guard, and others from the Department of Transportation and
the Department of Defense.  And I'd like to welcome the Mayor of Chicago,
Richard Daley, here and congratulate him on the things that Chicago has in
this transportation bill -- (laughter) -- once again showing that his
influence reaches beyond the city limits of the Windy City.

     Let me say to all of you that, for me, this is a very good day for the
United States.  This .08 standard is the biggest step to toughen drunk
driving laws and reduce alcohol related crashes since a national minimum
drinking age was established a generation ago.  (Applause.)       It is
estimated by the experts that have studied it that it will save at least
500 lives every year.  How often do we get a chance to begin a good morning
and a good week by saving 500 lives a year?

     I appreciate what Millie said, that we sounded the call here at the
White House for a .08 standard in all 50 states over two and a half years
ago.  It has been an uphill battle.  But the victory came because there
were members of Congress in both parties who worked with a collation of
health and safety organizations to do the right thing.  It came because
young people, parents and communities recognized the problem and decided to
do something about it.  But mostly, let's face it, it came because people
like Millie Webb and Brenda Frazier and their families decided to take
their grief and make something good happen for the rest of America.

     No point in our kidding ourselves, the rest of us would have never
defeated the lobbying interests that were against this legislation, if it
hadn't been for the people who were willing to honor their loved ones by
standing up and being counted, and fighting until this day came to pass.
(Applause.)

     We have been working for years now to increase awareness, strengthen
laws, toughen enforcement.  Five years ago, I signed a zero tolerance law
for underage drinking and driving.  (Applause.)  I'm glad you like that --
you know, the surveys always tell you, if you talk about something that
happened more than a year ago, it has a limited public response.
(Laughter.)  And I always pointed out, it may be limited, but it's
enthusiastic.  (Laughter.)

     Two years ago I took executive action to make .08 the limit on federal
property and we launched a public education campaign on drunk driving.
This year, the Departments of Transportation and Justice have released
about $60 million to help communities combat drunk driving and underage
drinking and to increase seat belt use.

     And, Secretary Slater, I just want to say at this moment how much I
appreciate what you have done.  You know, this man and I have worked
together for 18 years now.  I've aged quite a lot and he looks just about
like he did 18 years ago.  (Laughter.)  He was a very young man when he
came to work for me and I have seen him grow and mature.  And I think you'd
be hard-pressed to name another person who served as Secretary of
Transportation with greater distinction; and who has not only tried to get
more money for roads and bridges, more money for airports, more money for
rail and mass transit -- and we're still working on high-speed rail -- but
he's also tried to humanize the face of transportation and save lives.  And
I am very grateful to him, as well.  (Applause.)

     Thanks to all these folks' efforts we are making progress.  Last year,
people killed in alcohol related crashes dropped to an all-time low.  But
that low figure was a shocking 15,700 people, including more than 2,200
children.  Now, I think we all know that as many people as we have driving
our nation's highways, and all the countless miles that are driven, there
will never be a year when no one will lose their life on the highway
because of a mechanical failure or because an exhausted driver trying to
reach a family emergency falls asleep, or because something else happens.
But if you could just take away the alcohol related deaths, the number
would drop to a breathtaking low.

     Alcohol is still the single greatest factor in motor vehicle deaths
and injuries.  This law, .08, is simply a common sense way to help stop
that.  The science has been clear for a long time.  People that have that
much alcohol in their blood are too impaired to drive safely.  Judgement,
reaction times and other critical driving skills are severely diminished.
When a driver with a .08 blood level turns the ignition, that driver is
turning a car into a lethal weapon.

     The law is effective.  The National Transportation Safety
Administration study found that Illinois, after adopting the .08 standard,
reduced the number of drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes by about
14 percent.  The law is reasonable.  It is not, contrary to what some of
the propaganda against this said, about just having a drink or two after
dinner.  There is more involved here.  Lowering the limit will make
responsible Americans take even greater care when they drink alcohol in any
amounts, if they intend to drive, and it should, in any amounts.

     Today's success is just one more example of what we do when we come
together to meet common challenges, to help our children's future, and make
our communities stronger.  We have to keep working together, because there
are still too many drunk drivers, and there will still be too many after
this law passes.

     So I urge the American people to take notice of this day, and mostly
to take notice of the stories of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  Talk
with your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, your family members.
Make sure there is a designated driver, and teach children about the
dangers of drunk driving.

     This .08 measure, as I said, is part of a larger transportation bill
that I signed, that will also improve roads and bridges and airports and
mass transit.  It will also enhance the safety and performance of the
transportation system itself in the new century.  But I can't let this day
go without saying that we're now in the fourth week of November, and the
work of the budget was supposed to be completed on October the 30th.  I
mean, we're in the fourth week of October, the work of the budget is
supposed to be completed September 30th.  (Laughter.)  I'm still not over
flying to Egypt and back in three days, I'm sorry.

     But anyway, you get the point.  We're three weeks late, and we don't
have a budget.  Last week I signed another continuing resolution to keep
the government open until Wednesday; but I told the leadership that if we
don't make this deadline, we're going to have to go forward on a day by day
basis because Congress expects us to get the job done.

     I must say, this is the most unusual thing I've ever seen.  I would
have thought that Congress would want to get the job done so they could go
home and run for reelection.  And I say that not in a negative way.  I
think that's an honorable part of our system.  We need to finish our
business here.  We need especially to get an education budget that is
worthy of our children, that builds on what works, continues to hire
100,000 teachers, helps communities build or modernize schools, expands the
after-school programs and college opportunities, and helps to put a
qualified, certified teacher in every classroom.

     This is Monday morning, and the children are at school, the parents
are at work, and Congress comes back tonight to go to work.  Today, we have
celebrated the best of the American political system.  Citizens came
together, told their stories, overcame obstacles, and after years of
fighting, made America a safer, more humane, more decent place.  This
proves that our system can work.  And what we need to do is to bring these
values and this kind of effort to the remaining few days of Congress, so
that we can together do more things that are worthy of the great people we
serve and the great system we're privileged to be a part of.

     Thank you very much and good morning.  (Applause.)

                            END               10:17 A.M. EDT


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