The reason the drinking age was changed was mostly blackmail. States such as Wyoming stood to lose over 8.2 million in federal highway funds according to the New York Times article published in March 1988. The actual bill that was put in place required “all States to raise their minimum drinking age to 21 within 2 years or lose a portion of their Federal-aid highway funds; and encourage States, through incentive grants programs, to pass mandatory sentencing laws to combat drunk driving.” (Thomas Senate Record Vote Analysis) The portion of the Federal-aid highway funds that would be lost if the state didn’t comply amounted to 5 percent in the third year and 10 percent in the fourth year. The strongest ally was Candy Lightner, the president and founder of MADD, Mothers against Drunk Driving. The reason she founded the program was after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 1980. After the event she created MADD, an organization that had over 300,000 people from 44 states by 1984. (Alex Koroknay-Palicz)
The Lautenberg Amendment passed with 81 votes to 16 votes. “The 21-year-old minimum drinking age is now seen as good public policy, one you can’t lose on, and this is an election year.” Stated in the Washington Post. (Washington Post) The new drinking age became public law June 28, 1984.
Mathews, Jay. “One California Mother’s MADD Drive To Bar Highways to Drunken Killers; Loss of Her Daughter May Save Other Lives.” Washington Post, 15 June 1984 Koroknay-Palicz, Alex. "History of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act." Youth Truth. Www.asfar.org, Sept.-Oct. 2000. Web.