Should the Legal Drinking Age be Changed?
What is up with all the arbitrary age limits in our society? One must be 18 to marry (without consent) and to vote, 35 to be president, 25 to rent a car, 59 ½ to start collecting on your 401k without tax penalty, 62 ½ to begin collecting on social security, and so on, and of course the subject of this paper, which is 21 years old to legally drink. As one can see there appears to be little cohesion or structure with these random ages. Yes, members of society and some organizations will say there is good reason for all of these and will produce manufactured proof to back up all of these age restrictions. Obviously from my opening remarks one can surmise that I am in favor of lowering the legal drinking age. Why? To what age? What about these groups that are against it?
In 1984 the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed which basically says that if a state chooses to set a legal drinking age below 21 a percentage of highway funding will be withheld. So states are allowed to set the drinking limit at whatever age they want, but no state would sacrifice money and the ire of its constituents, and none have. Globally, the United States is one of very few nations with a drinking age as high as 21; Some of the others include Indonesia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Palau. (International Center for Alcohol Policies. January 2010. Retrieved 2013-01-08. ) The population of Palau is smaller than Oyster Bay, so let’s eliminate them. So mostly 3rd world, poor nations have this drinking age.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for keeping people safe. Tough DWI laws, increased penalties on those who drink and drive, huge public awareness campaigns by groups such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) are all good things. Those who are pro lowering the drinking age are not advocating for irresponsible drinking rather the right to drink responsibly. As a society, America should be able to differentiate myths from facts because data will prove to be right or wrong. So here are some facts: The rate of traffic deaths in all age groups began to decline in 1969 (15 years before law enacted). In fact teen deaths decreased 19% in this period.
Since 1992 there is very little statistical decline in alcohol deaths. (chooseresponsibiity.org)
One may be thinking and what society says, “every life saved is important and if there is even a slight decrease in alcohol deaths, that should be enough to keep the law.” Well, it is easy to look at data in a vacuum and make this critical thinking error. Maybe because of better awareness and stricter enforcement (see above) as well as safer cars, seatbelt laws, and airbags lives are saved. It is hard if not impossible to claim success due to the drinking age due to these facts.
Another myth propagated by society is that the 21 age limit stops minors from drinking. Prohibition in the early 1900’s didn’t work (watch Boardwalk Empire on HBO), and neither does the current drinking...