Perhaps you’ve heard someone pose the argument that our countries drinking age should be lowered back to eighteen, like it was back in 1984, but when comparing the evidence against allowing young adults under the age of eighteen legally buy alcohol it is clearly in our best interest to keep the drinking age where it’s at, age twenty-one. When alcohol was first made accessible to those age eighteen to twenty, legislators were applying the same logic they used when they lowered the minimum age for the military draft as well as the minimum age to vote. As a result of the actions of organizations such as the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, our country has come to realize how much of a difference those three years between eighteen and twenty-one makes through the use of statistics and hard facts about young drinkers. Even though underage teens are still able to find ways to obtain alcohol illegally, keeping the minimum drinking age at twenty-one will not only prevent irresponsible habits amongst America’s youth, but will save lives while doing so. I believe a strict drinking age which reflects the maturity and responsibility in our citizens is what should be law, rather than allowing America’s youth to ruin their lives before they truly start.
During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the lowering of the minimum age for military draft from twenty-one to eighteen, which changed many American’s perception of what age adulthood begins at. Critics at the time brought up the rise of traffic related accidents and fatalities among the eighteen to twenty year old age group in the areas where the drinking age had been lowered. Since different states were able to choose whether or not they would lower their drinking age, the boarders between these states and states that did not lower their legal drinking age were known as “blood boarders” (mentalfloss.com). This was because residents who weren’t legally able to drink in states with a drinking age of twenty-one would instead drive to a state where they could legally drink, encouraging a drunken ride back home later in the night. Almost instantly after the legal drinking age had been lowered, more and more accidents and deaths were being recorded in the eighteen to twenty year old age group.
With the passing of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, we have the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to thank for our across the board legal drinking age of twenty-one. According to MADD’s “Why 21” website, having a raised drinking age policy will annually save about 900 lives a year (madd.org), and traffic reports reveal a 62% decrease in alcohol related deaths among teen drivers since 1982 (mentalfloss.com), two years before the drinking age was raised. Each year, alcohol alone is responsible for an excess of 4,700 deaths among underage drinkers, more than all illegal drugs combined, and is related to many different health and social problems, including poor school performance (CDC.gov). These facts and statistics tell a tale of the importance of having an established drinking age, one that is placed at an age that will ensure the responsible use of alcohol.
Even with a strict legal drinking age of twenty-one, underage teens aren’t completely deterred from obtaining alcohol, but having these laws do make a difference, and ultimately save lives. When these laws were introduced, underage drinking declined from 59% in 1985 to 40% in 1991, which is a significant difference that appears to be correlated to lowered alcohol related fatality rates (CDC.org). Similar to many states law against allowing citizens under the age of twenty-one to purchase handguns, the legal drinking age is designed to decrease the likelihood of a younger, more susceptible individual from acting irresponsibly and/or recklessly, and increase the chance of an individual to make the right choices.
Any parent who is concerned for their child’s safety would agree that it is best for an individual to be mature enough to handle a substance like alcohol before allowing them unregulated access. Simply by looking at the hard facts, one can see the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 has been set in place to protect America’s young adults from making irresponsible choices, and endangering their own, or another’s life. Undoubtedly the legal drinking age of twenty-one will be upheld for many years to come, however, it is always important to remind ourselves why we need a raised drinking age, and why underage drinking is a problem that needs its proper attention.
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