The Legal Drinking Age: 18 Or 21?

1905 words - 8 pages

When someone turns 18 they acquire certain rights. They can vote for legislation, enroll in the military and buy a house. Before 1984, they were also allowed to buy alcohol.  This all changed when President Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. This act stated that the drinking age would change to 21 and it has remained that way since. There has been controversy on the effectiveness of the law because most people drink before they turn 21. Which side is right? Was Reagan correct for implementing the drinking age as 21 or are the multiple college president and chancellors of Amethyst Initiative that believe it should be 18?
Between the 1920’s and 1933 the use and purchase of alcohol was illegal. In 1933 when prohibition ended, the Twenty First Amendment left states free to legalize, regulate or prohibit alcohol as they saw fit (Miron 317). This caused some states to ban alcohol all together like Alabama and others to not have a drinking age at all, like Colorado (Miron 318). The most common minimum drinking age was 21 where 32 states saw it fit to set it at that. 1970 to 1976, 30 states lowered their drinking age to 18 because of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. This amendment granted 18-20 year olds the right to vote and also during that time the draft of Vietnam War was enacted for 18 year olds. If you can fight for your country you should be able to pick whom you are fighting for.  The same idea was in place for the drinking age, if you could die for your country, you should be able to drink a beer.
Years after the drinking age was lowered, studies started to claim that the states that enacted a lower drinking age had a rise in fatal car crashes for people in the age group 18-20. The two main studies, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study and the National Transportation Safety Board study were used in the Senate Congress debate (Miron 318). Michigan was the first state to raise their drinking age, but the time it took to raise it at the state level was a long time.  As different states changed their drinking ages, and some kept their drinking ages, it allowed people to drive across state lines to purchase alcohol. Something the typical teenager would do to get a few brews for the weekend. The United States though could not create a national drinking age because the 21st Amendment passed in 1933 gave states the power not the federal government to regulate the drinking age. The president couldn’t do anything without making it unconstitutional and it was unrealistic that all the states would agree on an age and raise it to that.  The Reagan Administration did see the crash fatalities as a threat. In 1982 the president made an executive order to create the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving to increase awareness on drunk driving and to increase enforcement of drunk driving laws. In July 17, 1984 President Reagan signed The Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act, which threatened to withhold highway construction funds...

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