Should We Lower the Drinking Age?
18 vs. 21
“Quicker Liquor” A Short Research Paper
Should the legal drinking age be lowered? Those who supported the change for the 2009 re-authorization of the law (dubbed Pro 18), and those who wanted the law to remain at the current age of 21 (dubbed Pro 21), had three major categories to explore for this debate: safety, binge drinking and maturity. There is opposition and support on both sides of the issue including a coalition founded in 2008 by a group of academic leaders called the Amethyst Initiative who support lowering the drinking age to 18. In 1984, after Candy Lightner suffered the loss of her daughter at the hands of a drunk driver in 1980, she created Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.) She lobbied for a new law to set a minimum drinking age of 21 in the hopes that it would help stop underage drinking. The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed and most states adopted it immediately to avoid a 10 percent reduction in federal funding for their state highways. According to a 2010 national survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “among young adults aged 18 to 25 in 2010, the rate of binge drinking was 40.6 percent” (Office of Applied Science). According to the findings, this was similar to the numbers for 2009. On a whole, drinking rates have slowly dropped for underage drinkers since the introduction of the Age Law. Despite the drop, independent studies showed that underage drinkers still “make up 10 percent, or $10 billion annually,” of the $115 billion alcohol industry in the United States alone (Witmer).
One of the main issues, safety, centers on driving accidents while under the influence of alcohol. This has been studied in other countries as well. According to Sanghavi, when “New Zealand lowered the drinking age from 20 to 18…[alcohol related crashes] declined far less than in the overall population” (Sanghavi). In addition, the National Youth Rights Association feels that “through education, gradual entry, and a relaxing of strict no-use policy towards youth will make drinking safer for people of all ages” (http://www.youthrights.org).
On the other hand, after the age law was enacted in the United States, Sangahvi notes “fatal car crashes involving young adults dipped 32 percent” (Sangahvi). This statistic is supported by a survey from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that showed “raising the drinking age to 21 cut traffic fatalities for 18- to 21- year-old drivers by 13 percent” (Binge Drinking Needs to Be Reform Focus). The Erie Times-News goes on to echo this sentiment by stating “there must be no letup in efforts to curb drunken driving. While it may have been acceptable years ago to drive under the influence, motorists of all ages are certainly aware that doing so now risks injury, arrest and jail time” (Binge Drinking Needs to Be Reform Focus).
One of the most concerning factors over alcohol consumption in young adults is binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined in the dictionary as: “the practice of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol regularly” (Dictionary). According to Chris Alexander; “because the legal drinking age is 21 it promotes binge drinking…forces underage drinkers to drink [irresponsibly]” (Alexander). Sangahvi notes in his article “lowering the legal drinking age can promote more responsible alcohol use” (Sangahvi). Certain academic circles feel “kids over 18 [could be allowed] to buy alcohol after a course on its history…as well as exposure to accident victims…” (Amethyst Initiative in Sangahvi).
The Pro 21 side feels much differently on the binge drinking subject, however. An article in the Erie Times-News notes a 2005 study performed by Harvard showing “alcohol is a factor in the deaths of 1,400 college students each year” (Binge Drinking Needs to Be Reform Focus). “In fact, young adults ages 18 to 22 who don’t go to college drink less than those who do” says...
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