You pack up all your belongings, say farewell to your hometown and your parents, and just like that, you start a whole new life that you have been looking forward to all your life. As you approach your first Friday night as a college freshman, you inevitably encounter the choice of going to your first college party and being able to drink without having to worry about your curfew for the first time. Needless to say, you make the decision to follow your floor-mates to a big party that they have been talking about for the whole week.
Underage drinking situations like the above are common especially among college students. Underage drinking is currently determined by an MLDA, or legal minimum drinking age, of 21 throughout the United States. Despite this simple and straightforward law, however, an abundant amount of irresponsible minors tend to ignore this rule and continue to do what is ultimately an illegal action. Because of these ongoing actions, people have been questioning the law and whether or not the legal drinking age should be lowered.
After a investigation of evidences and arguments, I firmly believe that the minimum legal drink age should be kept at 21 and not be lowered. Due to countless numbers of statistics, the social and physical effects, and the need to keep the younger teens away from alcohol, it is safe to conclude that keeping the drinking age at 21 is the best choice for our society. For more than 90 years, the topic of legal drinking age have surfaced and caused controversy.
Because of this, there have been many modifications to the law from lowering the minimum age to 18 to giving the choice to each state to increasing the national minimum age to 21. According to an article from Economic Inquiry by Jeffrey A. Miron and Elina Tetelbaum, having all states to adopt an MLDA of 21 is regarded as an enormous contribution to life-saving effects such as decrease in driving fatalities among youths as well as in the number of binge drinking reported.
When the individual states were allowed to lower their MLDA from 21 to 18 between 1970 and 1976, there were studies that “claimed that traffic collisions and fatalities were increasing in states that lowered their MLDA”. This helps to support the assertion that lowering the MLDA didn’t do much in lowering the number of traffic-related accidents, although it doesn’t directly prove the fact that lowering the drinking age causes accidents.
However, Dee, who uses state-level panel data and controls for state fixed effects, prove the point that there is a direct correlation between the MLDA and the rate of traffic incidents. After years of studying the effects of different MLDA’s, he confirmed that having an MLDA of 21 as a matter of fact reduces total traffic fatalities among 18-20 year olds by about 11%. Not only were there findings in the reduction of traffic fatalities with an increased MLDA of 21, but there were also evidences that it helps to reduce the number of teen binge drinking as well.
An article from the Journal of American College Health indicated that cases of binge drinking, which is defined as five consecutive shots for men and 4 consecutive for women, has been reported more frequently among college students living in dorms. However, according to the Economic Inquiry, moving away from MLDA 18 has been said to be associated with a reduction in heavy teen drinking of 8. 4%. They found that “nationwide increases in the MLDA…reduced youth drinking by about four percent relative to pre-existing levels” (Miron).
Overall, these findings in statistics help with the assertion that the drinking age should be kept at 21 for the minors’ safeties. In addition to these statistics, there are also social reasons behind why the underage population should be forbidden to drink until they are 21. According to an article on the American Journal of Public Health, influences in underage drinking are contributing factors in unintentional social and health causes, such as sexual assault, violence, crime, overdose, and other related high-risk behavior.
Since minors have not been fully developed as adults mentally, they are more likely to make irresponsible actions when intoxicated. This may lead to undesirable affects that could potentially influence them for the rest of their lives, and hence actions need to be done in order to keep minors from the alcoholic influence. Also in opposition, there is no scientific evidence made to date that suggests “a lower minimum drinking age would create conditions for responsible drinking or would lead young adults ages 18-20 years to make healthy decisions about drinking” (Wechsler).
Therefore, we have no solid claim to support the MLDA of 18, whereas we have more than enough justifications in saying that the MLDA should be kept at 21. Lastly, my stance on the minimum drinking age is supported by the mere fact that having a lower drinking age will only cause the younger generations to be introduced to alcoholic beverages. An article from the Economic Inquiry points out “when the MLDA is 18, more high school students have access to alcohol through peer networks”.
It is an inevitable circumstance that if the MLDA lowers down to 18, typical high school seniors will have access to alcohol; this can only mean that alcohol will be more accessible to high school underclassmen than if the MLDA is 21. This also means that, according the to the article, the law enforcement will have to monitor the drinking behavior of individuals aged 17 years and possibly younger—not only should this be an unnecessary action for law enforcement, but this is also a situation that everyone should be concerned about.
Giving teens easier access to alcohol will only deter them from growing to their full potential. The higher the MLDA, the less likelihood we have that the younger generation will have access to alcohol. That way, we will also have the benefit of a possible reduction in alcohol-related traffic fatalities and binge drinking rates among youths as well as prevention of them being socially and physically influenced by alcohol. Therefore, it makes more sense to keep the MLDA AT 21 if we do not want the younger generations to have easier access to alcohol.
Underage drinking—you see it everywhere and hear about it every time. Having to listen to the news on the most recent car accident caused by a drunk minor should not have to be a common thing if we implement the right actions. Many statistics out there evidently show that having a lower MLDA has a direct correlation to a higher chance of alcohol-related traffic fatalities as well as the rate of binge drinking amongst youths. Studies also show that underage drinking may lead to serious health or social causes to the minor, some of which include sexual assault, violence, and overdose.
Lastly, lowering the MLDA will only help the younger generations to have access to alcohol due to their high school peers. Overall, I believe that the safest and the best choice for our society is to keep the MLDA at 21 and not be any lowered than it is now. As the future leaders of the world, I believe that youths and minors should be grown in the safest, healthiest, and the most influence-free environment that will help them grow to their full potential when they can.
Subject: Drinking culture,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 29 September 2016
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