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Why is underage and binge drinking such a big problem in the United States? Is it the mentality of the people? Education? In Europe, kids are taught from a very young age, around 12, how to drink responsibly (Fulton). All European Union states have their minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) set at 18; except Germany which has it at 16. Europe however has fewer accidents relating to alcohol and their young adults are much more responsible. The US has gone through many changes of its MLDA.
In 1933, when the 23rd amendment was passed, states could choose their MLDA and most opt for 21. However, after the voting age was lowered to 18, states also changed their MLDA. This all changed when in 1988, Ronald Reagan passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act which told all states that they should raise the MLDA or their federal highway funds will be cut by 10 percent. This amount was later lowered to 8%. There are basic moral reasons why the minimum legal drinking age should be lowered to 18.
Three reasons are the need for responsible teenagers, reduce traffic accidents and lower rates of depression and other diseases.
Lowering the MLDA will lead to a more responsible teenage population. Turning 18 entails becoming an adult and also receiving the freedom and responsibility of voting. That should include alcohol consumption. Most people cannot purchase alcohol in the United States before 21. This is a fact that we cannot sidestep legally. This stimulates a teenager and causes them to look at drinking in a different light and therefore, teenagers receive alcohol illegally and begin drinking in private from a very young age (Binge Drinking).
This is supported by the way incoming college students and college students act, and the image they hold up to going to university (Drinking while). College students have a tendency to binge drink or drink heavily in a short period of time just for the intention of getting drunk. Binge drinking can cause accidents such as alcohol poisoning, public incidents or even sexual assault, which is a problem on a plethora of US college campuses. There are 100,000 cases a year correlating sexual assault to college binge drinking (Drinking while). However, if students didn’t see drinking as a “forbidden fruit” throughout most of their lives and are taught responsible for drinking, many of these cases can be prevented. Young adults can learn to enjoy drinking and learn their limits from a young age if taught and if incorporated as normality into society like Europe has done. Australia has introduced a program promoting and teaching healthy drinking beginning in high school (similar to sex ed) that has reduced college binge drinking by 20% (Throm). Knowing your drinking limits would have a direct effect on accidents caused by drinking. In Europe, where the MLDA is 18, there are less accidents relating to alcohol but statistics also show that European young adults spend more time intoxicated than young adults in the US (Fulton).
Lowering the MLDA will result in a reduction of traffic accidents relating to alcohol consumption. When the US rose its MLDA from 18 to 21, the rate of traffic accidents relating to alcohol consumption did not go down as much as other European countries (Fulton). “In the United States, 31% of road traffic deaths involve alcohol. This percentage is higher than in many countries with a drinking age lower than 21 such as France (29%), Great Britain (16%), Germany (9%), China (4%), and Israel (3%). Although the United States increased the MLDA to 21 in 1984, its rate of traffic accidents and fatalities in the 1980s decreased less than that of European countries whose legal drinking ages are lower than 21” (Drinking Age ProCon). This demonstrates that the rate of traffic accidents is not a result of the MLDA but it is more of a social issue. Lowering the MLDA from 21 to 18 would diminish the thrill of breaking the law to get a drink and additionally, arguably more important, to drink and drive. States should have a right to declare their own minimum legal drinking age based on their history.
The National Minimum Legal Drinking Age act persuaded states to raise their limits by threatening to take away 10% of highway funds based on the argument of increased traffic accidents revolving around drunk driving.. That’s the federal government overstepping its boundaries. In comparison, European countries, where the MLDA is 3 or 5 years younger, traffic accident rates have gone down much quicker and there are fewer accidents associated with drinking in Europe (Fulton). This also demonstrates that age is not the problem but the US in its unethical, legal drinking age, driven mentality towards drinking. But, what most people do not know is the health benefits some gloss over when talking about drinking at a younger age.
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