“If you’re old enough to vote for the next president or fight in wars, you’re old enough to drink,” said Stella.* Alcohol consumption in many teens’ minds means: fun, party and cool. But what happens when fatalities occur because of drunk driving? The legal age of alcohol consumption is 21, but should the legal drinking age be lowered to help combat underage alcohol use?
In a recent poll by MSNBC, 70 percent of 179,893 respondents said that the drinking age should be lowered; 29 percent said no; and 1.3 percent said ‘I don’t know.’ At 18, Americans are, in all aspects, an adult. They can vote, adopt children, or join the army. Many argue that if teens can survive in the army, the least the government could do is allow them alcohol. They argue that if the age were lowered there wouldn’t be as much under-age drinking.
By teens’ senior year, 72 percent of high school students have already had a full drink, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The current legal age of 21 only motivates teens to drink in secret, unsupervised, and often too excessively. “This style of drinking has no doubt been responsible for the alarming rise in rate of so-called ‘binge’ drinking,” says John McCardell Jr., President of Middlebury College.
However, opponents argue that with a lower drinking age, there would be higher chances of more young, intoxicated drivers on the roads. David Kelly of the NHTSA said, “Alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the 18-20 age-group have dropped 13 percent yearly. If we took away the 21-year drinking age, it would create havoc.”
In 2006, 2,121 people ages 16-20 died in alcohol-related fatalities, according to the NHTSA. Imagine what would happen if legislators made drinking at 18 legal.
According to the NHTSA, it’s estimated that from 1975 to 2003, higher drinking ages saved 22,798 lives on America’s roadways. James C. Fell, a safety administrator said, “It’s not a perfect law. But it does save lives. We have the evidence.”
* Name has been changed.