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?