While it may seem to some, drinking at age eighteen is frowned upon. It is actually true that many people between the ages of 18 and 20 drink alcohol illegally without any sense of guilt. On July 17, 1984, a law was established in the United States that impacted a large number of America’s youth. The indicated law was the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. Legal drinking ages were originally determined by each state. Many states kept the age at twenty one, but several lowered the age to eighteen. The bill was created and required, “all states to raise their minimum drinking age to twenty one within two 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” (Koroknay-Palicz 1) One main argument displayed by defenders of this law is that it will help keep alcohol out of the hands of immature underage drinkers who cannot handle drinking responsibly. Defenders of this act also thought that there would be fewer alcohol related car accidents if the minimum drinking age was increased to age twenty one. Law enforcement officials have put their best efforts to enforce this law, but have had a wide-spread failure throughout the United States. An eighteen year old is considered legally responsible for themselves according to the government, which is why the national minimum drinking age should be lowered to the age of eighteen. The current laws in place are creating unnecessary problems that can be solved if the drinking age is lower.
The government and society as a whole view an eighteen year old as an adult. At the age of eighteen, a teenager is given the rights of any adult automatically with the exception of being allowed to drink alcohol and a few other minor things. Eighteen year olds are given the right to vote, to sign a contract in their name, to enlist in the armed forces without parental consent, to apply for credit under you’re their own name, get married to their significant other, and etc. Having the right to do these things makes it clear that an eighteen year old is mature enough to make life altering decisions. Many people ask, “Why are these ‘adults’ not allowed to drink alcohol until the age of twenty one?” People believe that the answer to this question is that having the minimum drinking age at twenty one will save lives and prevent people under the age of twenty one from drinking. If this law is actually doing what it was expected to do, anyone can look and see if raising the drinking age to twenty one helped any of the problems stated earlier.
In 2010, a recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that 69.73% of people between the ages of eighteen and twenty used alcohol in that past year. Numbers seem to increase each year, and according to a recent article from MSNBC covering the topic of underage drinking, “About one out of five of those aged 12 to 20 — or roughly 7.2 million people — said they had taken part in binge drinking, defined as consuming five or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past month, the survey said.” (Dahlgren) These studies give factual evidence that having the National Minimum Drinking Age at twenty one is not working the way it should be.
In American society, many people think that it is an easy decision for teenagers to turn down an offer to drink underage. Peer pressure can be hard for teenagers not to fall into, which is one reason why this law has failed. Underage drinking is considered shameful and indecent, which makes it hard for minors to ask for help from parents or other responsible adults. The current laws enforced make underage drinkers scared of what may happen to them if they do ask for help. Since underage drinking is frowned upon, teenagers may take dangerous risks, like deciding to drive while under the influence of alcohol. If the drinking age was lowered to age eighteen, the number of DUI’s and alcohol-related car accidents involving minors would decrease. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Each year, approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking; this includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 as a result of homicides, 300 from suicide, as well as hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings.” (Underage Drinking). It is obvious that the current law in place is not doing what was intended. If the drinking age was lowered to eighteen, the number of alcohol related deaths would decrease.
In the twenty seven years that the National Minimum Drinking Age has been in place, it is clear that we must find a different way to bring us some consistency with the current law. Again, we ask why are ‘adults’ ages eighteen to twenty not allowed to drink alcohol in the United States? Many people are against the answer given by the government, and want to see a change. What we do not want to happen, is to turn these bad habits into permanent ones. One way to do this is to reconsider the fact that it would be best for the society as a whole if the minimum drinking age was lowered to age eighteen.