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Why The Drinking Age Should Remain The Same

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Why The Drinking Age Should Remain The Same
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In 2009 it was reported that the 21- to 24-year-old age group had the highest percentage, 35 percent to be exact, of drivers in fatal crashes with blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of .08 or higher (Steven C. Markoff). Coincidentally studies showed when the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) was lowered to 18, the fatalities in traffic accidents that were related to alcohol were decreased by nearly 7.5 percent. However, the argument as to whether biologically could an 18-year olds body sustain the damage that alcohol does to the body still persists. Premature alcohol consumption has been reported to hinder the development of the brain's frontal lobes, which could lead to health problems such as addiction, dangerous risk-taking behavior, reduced decision-making ability, memory loss, and other severe issues. At this point it's certain that the issue of discussion is the MLDA and whether it should remain the age of 21 or be lowered. Within this discussion, the problem will addressed, the measures that have been taken to either change solution or stick with the current solution (drinking age at 21) will also be laid out. Also provided will be a personal opinion on the issue in general as well as an opinion on which solution would best fit society as a whole. The topic, whether the MLDA should be 21 has been a question that has been tossed around legislative conference rooms since it was established law in 1984. In the early 80s, evidence from studies linked that there was an increase in alcohol-related deaths among teens. In response, President Ronald Reagan had the MLDA raised from 18 to 21. Statistically it seemed that the legislation proved to be just; in 2000 67.4 percent of college students reported drinking as oppose to 82 percent in 1980, when younger drinking ages were the norm (Robert Wood Johnson). Even though it seems that the 1984 legislation proved to work, other issues still surfaced and new ones began to emerge. Such as colleges and universities across the United States saying that this law has caused more problems on college campuses, not less. A decade after the legislation had been established, it was reported that on college campuses two-thirds of all property damage, 64% of violent behavior, and 28% of college dropouts could be attributed to the consumption of alcohol (Robert Wood Johnson). Also, it seemed that traffic fatalities among the age groups of 18-25 years old rose and were linked to alcohol. It was almost like the never-ending cycle of how one solution isn't the end all be all for one problem. The issue of determining what would be the "ideal" MLDA is something that is almost subjective. Comparing the United States to countries like Germany where the MLDA is 16 couldn’t be taken seriously because both cultures are very different and in Germany beer is considered a beverage that goes with every meal like the United States and Coke-a-Cola products in a sense. In the The Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Public Health by Christopher Carpenter and Carlos Dobkin they discussed in one portion how economical considerations could be used to determine the appropriate MLDA. They stated that determining the optimal age at which to set the minimum legal drinking determining the optimal age at which to set the MLDA requires estimates of the loss in consumer surplus that results from reducing age requires estimates of the loss in consumer surplus that results from reducing peoples’ alcohol consumption (Carpenter and Dobkin, 135). Dobkin and Carpenter felt that the amount of loss consumers took in cost as result of alcohol consumption in different age groups would help determining the best MLDA. However, finding credible sources of data and facts became an apparent problem and speed bump at the same time. Within the same article Carpenter and Dobkin begin to analyze the possibility of the MLDA becoming 18 and go into detail about what affects this would have. In their article they state that the reason that if the MLDA was lowered it would be 18 is because 18 is the age of majority for other important activities such as voting, military service, and serving on juries. So it only seems to be most reasonable that an 18 year old should also be allowed to purchase and consume alcohol. Before concluding this section of their article Dobkin and Carpenter introduced the idea of using a sort of formula that would help justify whether the current age is suitable or not. The expression is as follows; add how much the drinker paid for the drink to the cost per drink borne by the drinker yields a lower bound on how much a person would have to value the drink for its consumption to be the result of a fully informed and rational choice (Carpenter and Dobkin, 136). So if the cost is large or if the total cost of a drink is larger than what we believe the value of the drink is to the person consuming it, then it would support why the current age is appropriate (Carpenter and Dobkin, 136). Many high school seniors and college underclassmen are tempted by the thrill of drinking and the perception they have of themselves after they have a drink. Society makes underage drinking rather appealing and widely accepted through music, movies, and even certain ads. For any average American teen being accepted and considered popular is what makes adolescent years so admirable. Suppose the drinking age was lowered to 18 many researchers believe it would make consuming alcohol less taboo for young adults whom are underage. It’s proven that a MLDA of 21 doesn’t stop underage teens from drinking anyway, in 2006, 72.2% of twelfth graders reported drinking alcohol at some point in their lives. These reasons, along with the others previously stated, are reasons as to why the MLDA should be lowered. However, with all pros there is usually an equal and opposite con that may cancel out the pro. Yet unlike Newton’s III Law the opposing forces don’t always balance each other, in fact some cons are greater than their counter pros. What needs to be established is a way to measure the positives and negatives. One negative to lowering the MLDA is that a higher MLDA was reported to have direct correlation to lower traffic accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that MLDA 21 decreased the number of fatal traffic accidents for 18- to 20-year-olds by 13% and saved approximately 27,052 lives from 1975-2008 (Drinkage.procon.org). Another con that convinces legislatures to not budge on this law is that a higher MLDA has lowered the percentage of drunk drivers on a typical weekend from 6% in 1986 to 2.2% in 2007. Not only has the amount of legally “drunk” drivers on weekends decreased but a MLDA of has also slowed underage teens from becoming binge drinkers and destroying their bodies before they can even reach 21. In 1985, a year after the law was passed that made the MLDA 21, drinking among the age group of 18-20 years old had dropped from 59% to 40% (CDC). After analyzing and reviewing many viewpoints and reading articles on those who disagree and agree with the MLDA of 21, personally my opinion believes that the law should remain the same. I also believe that the law should be reinforced, and greater attention needs to be paid to the education of young teens on how to be responsible with alcohol. Numbers don’t lie, Carpenter and Dobkin provided a chart that explicitly showed that age group that had the most alcohol related motor vehicle accidents between 1973-2000 was the 18-20 years old range. Even though 12 of those years were before the law was passed aside the percentage by the 100,000 has only lowered minutely and that age group still remains the highest. Economically the costs it takes to cleanup and traffic accidents as well as hospital costs on families would remain lower than if the MLDA was lowered to 18, and would continually get lower if the education of alcohol and teens were to improve. Financially installing educational programs in all school systems may have an immediate cost but in the long hall of things the cost of deaths, traffic accidents, and hospital aid would still be more expensive. Personally I believe in order to solve the argument of MLDA is to improve the education of teens, reinforce the law and instill tougher repercussions for those who disobey the law. In summation the MLDA argument has been in conversation since the 80s to answer the question whether it will revert back or not still persists, even though some pro-activist like to argue that the data that is relative to the MLDA being 18 is nearly three decades old at this point, society today alludes to behavior being potentially worse if the MLDA was lowered to 18. However at the end of the day the main issue is to how to keep young adults safe and give them a chance at making a difference in society and improving problems missed by previous generations.

Reference Page
Robert Wood Johnson. “Addressing the minimum Legal Drinking Age“ AlcoholPolicy. 2005.http://www.alcoholpolicymd.com/press_roo February 26, 2014

Carpenter, C., & Dobkin, C. (2011). The Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Public Health. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 25(2), 133-156.

"Drinking Age ProCon.org." ProConorg Headlines. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2014. .

"Fact Sheets - Age 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 Apr. 2014. .

Singh, Maanvi. "Legal Drinking Age Of 21 Saves Lives, Even Though It's Flouted."
NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2014. .

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