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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Lowering the drinking age leads to safer alcohol use

<n 18-year-old, I take pride in being regarded as a full-fledged member of society who is therefore allowed certain rights such as buying fireworks and spray paint, voting, getting a tattoo, suing someone (or getting sued), adopting a child, and joining the military. While I may not choose to exercise all of these rights that come with adulthood, it is comforting to know that, should I so desire, I can change my name or buy nitrous oxide without anyone’s permission. The one right I am still not granted, however, is to drink alcohol.

In the United States, the process of increasing the drinking age from 18 to 21 began in 1984 with President Reagan’s signing of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act forcing states to either raise the drinking age or suffer a 10 percent cut to federal highway funding. Unsurprisingly, by 1988 all states had raised their drinking age to 21 years of age. As a result, we now live in a paradoxical society where 18- to 20-year -olds can die for their country yet are not legally permitted to drink.

One of the most compelling arguments for raising the drinking age back in the 1980s was that it would reduce the number of drinking-related car accidents. However, decreases in the number of motor vehicle accidents related to drunk driving may not be directly correlated to pushing up the drinking age. New driving services such as Lyft and Uber and an increase in education on drunk driving could be other main causes. Furthermore, in other countries where the drinking age is 18 or lower, there are far fewer drunk driving accidents than in the United States. According to a World Health Organization report, 31% of road traffic deaths involve alcohol in the U.S. compared to only 16% in Great Britain and 9% in Germany, both of which have drinking ages of 16.

Since the drinking age was increased, there has been a heavy increase in problems related to drinking among underage college students. According to Dr. Engs of Indiana University, because alcohol is “forbidden” and a “symbol of adulthood,” underage college students will still drink alcohol but in an “irresponsible manner,” leading to a rise in the number of students under 21 who are binge drinkers. Furthermore, Dr. Engs states that after the drinking age was raised, there were increases in the amount of students who reported “vomiting after drinking,” “cutting class after drinking” and “getting lower grades because of drinking.” Due to the large presence of alcohol on college campuses, where only half of the student body is over 21, many college presidents have mulled over the issue of lowering the drinking age. In 2008, presidents of 100 universities in the U.S. called on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age in an attempt to decrease the amount of binge drinking on college campuses.

Finally, lowering the drinking age to 18 would allow parents to teach their children safe drinking habits within the home before they are subjected to group social scenes in college where making smart choices becomes more challenging.

It is clear that 18- to 21-year-olds are going to drink alcohol, no matter the current law. Therefore, the drinking age should be lowered to 18 to help develop safe drinking habits and help reduce binge drinking among young students.

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