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Special Event

President Clinton Signs Drunken Driving Legislation

Aired October 23, 2000 - 10:05 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go right now to the White House, where President Clinton is speaking in the Rose Garden. He is going to be talking about legislation he will sign that will make it the legal limit, .08 for blood alcohol level. That will be reducing it in many states across the country.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 another person who's here today, Brenda Frazier, who came to the White House in 1998 to talk about the tragic death of her 9-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 worked on this. We did have strong bipartisan support but 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's 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.

(LAUGHTER)

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 the national minimum drinking age was established a generation ago.

(APPLAUSE)

It is estimated by the experts who 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 coalition 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.

There's 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.

KAGAN: We have been listening to President Clinton, at the White House, talking about signing legislation that will demand that all states have to adopt .08 as the blood-alcohol level that would define drunken driving. Most states right now have a higher limit than that. And yet, if don't change by the year 2004, they will begin to lose federal highway funds.

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