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Why the Legal Drinking Age in America Elicits a Hot Debate

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The topic of the drinking age in America has been the discussion for well over 20 years now and still going strong. As a mother and college student I feel that something needs to be done about the increasing rate of teenage death due to drinking. Teenagers are drinking behind closed doors and dying, it’s not just about drinking and driving anymore. I was once a teenager and that did not stop me from drinking or, putting my life on the line in the U.S. ARMY for our country. To what extent would it be beneficial or detrimental to lower the drinking age to 18?

In the U.S., the drinking age was increased from 18 to 21 in 1984 when the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 was enacted. It was said that all states should raise the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) to 21, or they lose a certain percentage of federal highway dollars. It was said by enacting this law the teenage death rate on highways was decreased. However, according to the CDC that rate has since increased since 1984 and is not just related to teenage deaths on the highway.

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The former president of Middlebury College in Vermont, John McCardell, believes and it’s why he started the movement dedicated to lower the drinking age to 18. It may seem counterintuitive, but he argues that lowering the age will make kids safer (4). Teenagers driving while drunk is not the only issue at hand and that is what the Pro-drinking age people are trying get out there.“That number of lives lost to alcohol by 18 to 24 year olds is going up at an alarming rate. It isn’t just about lives lost on the highways,” McCardell says (3). Kids at the age of 18 are heading off to college drinking, regardless of the legal drinking age. Kids are drinking no matter what the law says and I for one would rather have them know what it is to drink and how they will react to alcohol. It is not just about teenagers being able to make the right choices, people act as if when you turn 21 you do not make wrong choices and can drink. At the age of 18 you can enlist in the military to go fight for our country and risk your life but, you cannot legally have a drink. Does that sound right to you?

According to the president of MADD, the drunken driving rate of teenagers has decreased since 1984. This shows that the 21 law is working and if the drinking age was lowered to 18 the rate would go back up (2). By raising the drinking age to 21 the percentage of fatal traffic accidents for those between 18 to 20 have decreased by 13% and has saved approximately 21, 887 lives (1). No matter if the age is 21 or 18, everyone does not know when to stop drinking. If that were the case there would not be people being hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. When teens drink alcohol, they are more likely to binge drink than people above the age of 21 (1).

What I have learned is that the drinking age is something that will not simply be lowered over night by any means. The numbers do not seem to match and do not show the big picture here. The big picture here is that our teens are drinking no matter what the law says and some are dying for no reason. Are we as Americans just going to sit here and allow our teens to die because there is a law emplaced against underage drinking? We need to educated our teens and start treating them like young adults. Making wrong choices does not stop once you turn 21 and the issue of drinking does not disappear then either. No matter your age, gender or race alcohol can be a problem on and off the roads and we need to start doing something about it.


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