Teenagers will do just about anything to fit in with the “popular” crowd. Drinking and partying are both viewed as cool or popular in the eyes of some teenagers. What does a teenage party consist of? Well, it will usually take place in a house with no parental supervision, along with members of both sex, and a lot of alcohol. The teens may then engage in drinking games such as beer pong, flip cup, quarters, presidents and A-holes, to name a few. As time passes trouble begins. The girls may become more vulnerable to sexual activity than if they were sober. Some kids may become very sick and could possibly acquire alcohol poisoning. And to top it all off, others may get behind the wheel of a car and attempt to drive home. These are just a few of the problems that arise from underage drinking.
It is often argued by teens that the drinking age is too high. They believe that if they are eligible to vote, they may be sent to war, and possibly die for their country at the age of eighteen; then they should be able to consume alcohol. What some of these teens don’t know is that the drinking age was eighteen at one time in some states. However, the United States government saw problems with youth drinking and they decided to raise the legal drinking age to twenty-one. As an additional incentive to enforce the age significance, the government proposed to stop all federal funding of highways to the states whose drinking age was less than twenty-one,.
During the 1960’s and 70’s many states lowered the legal drinking age from twenty-one to eighteen. In many of these states, documents showed a considerable increase in highway deaths of teens between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. When the legal age was converted back to twenty-one, the states observed the number of alcohol related highway fatalities of the age group effected by the change and discovered that there was approximately a thirteen percent decrease in teenage fatalities. This clearly shows that there would be more traffic fatalities if the drinking age were to be lowered to eighteen.
Alcohol related car accidents are indeed the most observed problem when considering lowering the drinking age. This is not of any surprise, considering that car accidents pose the greatest threat to the lives of teens. Researchers have blamed this statistic on risk taking, immaturity and inexperience, and alcohol. John Elson, from Time found that “in 1993, over forty percent of the 5,905 traffic fatalities of fifteen to twenty year olds were alcohol related.” That is 2,362 deaths a year, nearly seven deaths a day, which could have easily been prevented if this group of teens wouldn’t have broken the law and drank alcohol. During an average weekend, approximately one teenager dies each hour in an auto accident.
It is also important to realize that teens are not the only ones out there driving drunk. MADD reports that in 2002, there were approximately 17,419 people killed in alcohol related accidents, which means that teens contributed to 30 percent of those deaths. Young drivers are less likely than adults to drive after drinking alcohol, but their crash risks are substantially higher when they do decide to get behind the wheel and drive. This could be largely in part to the amount of driving experience adults have compared to teens.
Drinking and driving is not the only problem with underage drinking. The brain continues to develop throughout adolescence until the person reaches the estimated age of twenty. It is also proven that the brain responds differently to alcohol during adolescence then during adulthood. Alcohol affects many other parts of the body as well, such as the nervous system, reproductive system, gastrointestinal system, immune system, and circulatory system. The affects that alcohol may cause on these systems could cause death, even with only one drink. Beyond the health risks of drinking, education is another element affected by alcohol.
Drinking alcohol will not substantially lower your intelligence, but it may weaken your attitude towards school and schoolwork, causing your grades to drop. There is also a direct correlation between kids with poor grades and drinking habits. During a survey taken by students, it was revealed that students with grade point averages of a “D” or “F” were found to drink twice as much as those who earned an “A”.
Alcohol can be linked to another prevalent problem in our society today which is sexually transmitted diseases. Amongst all sexually active teenagers, those who average five or more drinks are less likely to use condoms which place them at a greater risk of contracting STD’s. It has also been found by Commissions of Substance Abuse at Colleges that “sixty percent of college women diagnosed with sexually transmitted disease were drunk at the time of infection”. If we could cut down on the number of underage drinkers we could also cut down on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases by almost two-thirds.
So with all of these negative affects of alcohol, why do teens think that drinking is cool and that it is something they must do to fit in with the rest of the crowd? The entertainment industry is somewhat to blame. More than one billion dollars each year is spent on alcohol advertisements. The average American will see up to 100,000 television ads for beer before they reach the age of eighteen. Older teens, however, are not the only group being targeted. MADD also discovered that “out of 81 G-rated animated films, nearly 50 percent showed characters using alcohol, often without consequence”. Not to say that the television is forcing teens to drink, but it is definitely not helping the situation.
To wrap it all up, if you would like to see more teenagers die each year in automobile accidents, more teenage pregnancies, a wider and more rapid spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and more alcoholics in our country, then go right ahead and send a letter to the government to propose lowering the drinking age. If you would rather see the next generation grow up healthier, smarter, and more responsible, then leave the legal drinking age where it is. There was a time that the drinking age was eighteen; it is estimated by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety that about 17,000 lives have been saved due to bringing the legal drinking age up to twenty-one. Why lower it again? Have you ever heard the phrase “history repeats itself?”