Lower The Legal Drinking Age
Lower the Legal Drinking Age
Since the time of prohibition in the 1920’s there has always been a great debate over whether or not alcohol should be consumed in the United States. In 1933 the government said that it was legal to manufacture and consume alcohol in the United States as long as you were over the age of twenty-one in most states. In the 1970’s this age went down to anywhere from eighteen to twenty in different states. This was done because of the lowering of many of the other laws such as voting and when you legally became an adult. The minimum legal drinking age was then raised back to twenty-one when the federal government threatened states by withholding federal transportation money in 1984 (“Minimum”). The main reason for this increase in the legal age was because of studies done in the 1980’s that showed that teenagers were dying at an alarming rate from drunken driving incidents. The government decided that the best course of action would be to raise the minimum legal drinking age to buy and consume alcohol. This caused a lot of controversy in many states that believed they should be the ones setting the limits on their citizens. Today the debate over the legal age to consume alcohol is again coming to the surface. Many states are beginning to look at whether or not lowering the legal drinking age would be beneficial. Lowering the legal minimum drinking age would actually benefit society rather then cause more harm and problems.
It is not a huge surprise to anyone that underage drinking occurs on a massive scale. All that you have to do is spend a Friday or Saturday evening on a major college campus and you are certain to see minors consuming alcohol. Just consuming a small amount of alcohol is however not the main problem. The main problem is that they are consuming alcohol in an unsafe manner. Survey’s show that 29% of seniors in high school engage in binge drinking at least once every two weeks. (Faden) This binge drinking is directly related to the fact that they can’t consume alcohol until twenty-one and they know it is against the law so they get really drunk really fast to get the instant gratification. Ruth Engs, a professor at Indiana University agrees with many other people’s experts when they say that the easiest way to eliminate this problem is to lower the drinking age to eighteen (“Forbidden Fruit”). On college campuses drinking is going to continue to go on as it has for many years. It is a tradition that resists going away. By rising the drinking age it will not be such of a taboo to drink before you are twenty-one. They will become more responsible because they can consume alcohol in places that are more supervised such as bars or restaurants.
The minimum legal drinking age is also inconsistent with many of the other laws currently set in place. As of right now one legally becomes an adult at the age of eighteen. With this comes the ability to get married, to vote, to buy tobacco, to buy a house, enlist in the military, along with many other things. If all of these things are possible when someone is eighteen then why is the ability to drink alcohol restricted? If it is a matter of health then tobacco should also be raised, tobacco causes more cancers that lead the nation in mortality rate. One of the largest arguments in the drinking debate is if one can be forced to go to war fight and die for their country then why can’t they go out and have a beer. Many believe that when a person becomes a legal adult everything should be included in that which means that they can drink. Even if someone gets married at eighteen he/she is not legally able to drink a celebratory glass of champagne at his/her own wedding reception.
To know what would happen if the drinking age were lowered to eighteen all that we have to do is look at what is currently working in other countries. Along with five countries around the world the legal drinking age is twenty-one in the United States, this is the highest in the world. In France the drinking age is sixteen. When comparing alcoholism in France to alcoholism in the United States it is clear that it is lower in France. Only 9% of adults in France are considered to be alcoholics. In the United
States this is much higher with the rates estimated to be 10-20% (“Alcoholism”). Most people believe that this is because they grow up drinking and learn responsible drinking habits in their younger years. Most parents in France allow their children to have a glass of wine with some meals. This association with alcohol creates less want for them to want and try alcohol when they are teenagers. These statistics show that what they are doing is working to some degree. I am not suggesting lowering the age to that of France, but taking a look at what is working for them is always helpful to determine if we should follow in their footsteps.
The main reason for the reduction of the minimum legal drinking age in 1984 was the amount of accidents occurring among teenagers as a result of alcohol consumptions. Studies came out in the early 1980’s that showed that teen fatalities were being caused by drunken driving accidents at a high rate. After the laws were passed more studies were done that showed a decline in the number of deaths caused by alcohol. Today people are using studies that came out after the laws were passed to say that the age shouldn’t be raised because the deaths decreased as a direct result of the law. To the untrained eye this looks to be a valid point. Looking at the results of studies in the 1980’s it is clear that these death rates were decreasing before the laws were even passed.
Starting in the early 1980’s death rates caused by drunken driving was already starting to decrease. In 1982 60% of all fatal accidents were caused by alcohol the next year this went down to 58% with no change in the law. In 1984 the percentage was 56% again decreasing. In 1985 it went down again to 53%. One year after the law to rise the minimum legal drinking age was passed the percentage actually went up a percentage, then again started to gradually decrease again (“Total”). There was no substantial drop that shows that accidents decreased because the drinking age increased. Many things contributed to the decline in the death rate. At this time seat belt laws were beginning to become a lot stricter and laws were put into place where you could be ticketed and fined for not wearing your seatbelt. This caused more people to start wearing their seatbelts which helped save their lives. Also at this time cars were becoming much safer. July 11, 1984 saw the government require air bags in all future cars (“Air”). All these factors led to a much safer vehicle and caused the fatality statistics to lower although more and more drivers went out on the roads each year.
With the laws currently set in place right now having little effect on who is drinking and minimal problems with controlling the problems associated with lowering the legal minimum drinking age, the drinking age needs to be lowered to eighteen. The statistics clearly show that the increase in age in the 1980’s was not needed because of the safety improvements already occurring.
“Air Bag.” Wikipedia. 5 Mar. 2008. 2 Mar. 2008
“Alcoholism.” EncyclopÃ¦dia Britannica. 2008. EncyclopÃ¦dia Britannica Online. 8 Mar.
Engs, Ruth C. “FORBIDDEN FRUIT.” Vermont Quarterly 1999. 10 Feb. 2008
Faden, Vivian. “Underage Drinking Research Initiative.” NIAAA National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Feb. 2008. NIAAA. 1 Mar. 2008
“Minimum Legal Drinking Age.” AMA Helping Doctors Help Patients. 12 Feb. 2008.
Alcohol & Drug Abuse. 6 Mar. 2008
“Total Traffic Fatalities Vs. Alcohol Related Traffic Fatalities – 1982-2006.” Mothers
Against Drunk Driving. MADD. 2 Mar. 2008