Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Raising the drinking age to 21 has saved 864 lives of kids 20 and younger every year

There has been some talk, especially among college presidents, of lowering the drinking age to 18 again.

These folks don't want the responsibility of policing the binge drinking on their campuses which results in deaths, rapes, assaults, property damage, and disorderly conduct.

However, the public health research has demonstrated that raising the drinking age to 21 and enforcing strictly underage drinking and driving laws saves 864 lives of people 20 and under in the United States every year. That's a lot of kids.

There was an interesting article in the Winter, 2009 issue of the newsletter from the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse which describes these findings.

Click on image to enlarge for easier reading.


Dave said...

The research has also indicated that those lives saved in the 18-20 category weren't actually saved. They were just shifted to the 21-24 age bracket and are more easily explained by increased safety controls like seat belts and better enforcement as well as systemic stigmatization of Drunk Driving (Dee & Evans - The problem of irresponsible drinking is not something that can be made to go away simply by making it illegal. The current drinking age serves no purpose other than to imprison America's younger population for status offenses.

eric.paine said...

Most states in the nation adopted a minimum drinking age of 21 soon after federal passage of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which required states to maintain a minimum drinking age of 21. Under the Federal Aid Highway Act, States were required to enforce the minimum drinking age of 18 in order to avoid a 10% reduction in federal highway funds. The original intention of the law was to reduce the incidents of alcohol-related accidents among people under 21. But since passage of this legislation, and the raising of the drinking age in many states, the percentage of people who drink between the ages of 18 to 20 has skyrocketed. Many say the prohibitions have actually encouraged secretive binge drinking, more dangerous behavior, and less educational programming targeting this age group. Respected law enforcement officials and university presidents have recently called for changes in the federal law to permit states to lower the drinking age.

At age 18, people are legal adults. As much as their parents may think otherwise, they are no longer children. They have the right to vote and help choose the President of the United States. They can go to war to defend our country, and they can legally purchase guns and cigarettes. It is absolutely absurd that they cannot have a beer or glass of wine without fear of possible arrest and prosecution.

It's time for the nation to repeal these Prohibition-era laws and adopt a more intelligent, progressive, and educational approach to drinking among younger adults. These laws simply don't work, they aren't enforceable any longer, and if anything they are counterproductive. Literally millions of responsible young adults are already consuming alcohol and that's not going to change. What we need to do is stop wasting the taxpayers money chasing, charging and prosecuting responsible young adults who want to have a beer, and start putting the money where it ought to be, in promoting smart education about responsible drinking, and in pursuing far more serious criminals, including those at all ages who drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Eric Paine
President & Founder
Drink At 18