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Should We Lower the Drinking Age? MomTalk

A group of university and college officials believes the current minimum drinking age does little to curb risky drinking. Would you let 18 year olds drink?

Eighteen is the magic number. It's the birthday so many teens anticipate as the day they gain autonomy from parents and become masters of their destinies. They can vote, marry and go to war.

But should they be allowed to drink alcohol?

John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont and current vice chancellor and president of the University of the South, thinks so. As a member of the Amethyst Initiative, a group comprised of university and college presidents and chancellors, he and his cohorts believe the 21 drinking age does little to curb irresponsible drinking on college campuses and in homes across the country.

"This law has been an abysmal failure. It hasn't reduced or eliminated drinking, it has simply driven it underground, behind closed doors and into the most risky and least manageable settings," McCardell said in a 60 Minutes interview in 2009.

According to Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner, despite the hundreds of tickets his officers write every year for underage drinking, particularly among students at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the law does little to "contain it." In a college town with a reputation as one of the biggest party schools in the nation, he believes the law simply drives underage drinking further underground.

The advantage to lowering the drinking age, according to Beckner, is that time and money wouldn't be wasted on "enforcing a law that is unenforceable."

The National Transportation Safety Board, MADD, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, the American Medical Association, the National Safety Council and the International Association of Chiefs of Police disagree.

A spokesperson for the National Safety Council cited a 13 percent decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities among 18- to 20-year-olds within a month of enforcing the 21 drinking age in 1984.

So the dilemma is whether to dissolve a law that improves highway safety but does little to deter unsafe drinking habits on college campuses across the United States.

Should lawmakers revise the drinking age and lower it to 18?

Steve Burke November 24, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Good point. If you lower the age, the less hidden drinking, which can include increased binge drinking. Drinking out in the open is always better than hiding it. If you can vote, and get killed in service to our country, why can't you choose to drink or not?
Anita November 26, 2011 at 07:50 PM
I agree with Cheryl. Lower the drinking age, but toughen the penalties for ANY drinking while driving... 0.0 alcohol limit when behind the wheel. In the 70s, when I was 19, many municipalies in Illinois, including Chicago, lowered the drinking age to 19--but 2 years later, when I was 21 they raised the drinking age BACK up to 21. Perhaps we need to look at the reasoning of those changes 40 years ago.
Denise Du Vernay November 27, 2011 at 03:24 AM
For fairness and consistency, the drinking age (and everything else) should be 18. Lottery tickets, cigarettes, alcohol, drivers licenses, being tried as an adult, joining the military, marriage. Everything. Sure, a lot of people aren't mature enough at 18 to understand some or all of those things, and some understand the importance of all of those things well before age 18, but 18 is the age we've decided as a society is an "adult." What sense in 15 for some things, 16 or 18 for others, 21 for drinking? The idea that teens can be legally married years before they're allowed to buy a six pack of beer at the grocery store is simply mind boggling.
Nature Lover November 28, 2011 at 03:25 AM
As a parent of teenagers, I agree 100 percent with Denise and others. We should allow all adults (18 years and older) the choice to drink alcohol. I don't agree with the comment that 18-20 year olds need stiffer penalties than anyone over 21 who drinks and drives. The .08 law should apply across the board.
Cheryll November 29, 2011 at 07:31 PM
Actually, Bobby, the penalty is stiffer now with zero tolerance for under age drinking. The reason I suggest stiffer penalties for 19-20 year olds is to try to please people, like Karen the non-drinker. We get it Karen you don't understand why anyone drinks ever. Drinking leads to unplanned pregnancies and drive-by shootings???

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