Legal Drinking Age on Driving Under the Influence and Public Safety
The Devastating Consequences of Alcohol Abuse
The stories are constantly being told. A family relative died in a car accident because a reckless driver decided to have several drinks before their joy ride. In the inverse, the relative died because they had one too many drinks. The story of how a loving mother lost their child to a disease that was contracted thanks to the consumption of alcohol. These stories are not unique. They tell us of events that could happen to anyone at any time.
As you read this now, hundreds of people are experiencing a story that will inevitably end in grief and sorrow. When someone asks whether the legal drinking age should be lowered, the answer should be no. The legal drinking age should not be lowered because it could increase the chance of health problems associated with alcohol consumption, increase the rate of mortalities, increase the rate of alcohol-related crimes, and increase the rate of drunk driving.
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Implications of Lowering the Drinking Age on Mortality Rates
The lowering of the drinking age would allow for the increase of health problems to occur. According to the article “Alcohol ‘more damaging to brain health than marijuana,” marijuana has less of an effect on brain matter than alcohol does. The research found that people who consume alcohol had a large reduction of gray matter, a dark tissue of nerve cells and dendrites found in the brain and spinal cord, and also a reduction in the integrity of white matter, a brain and spinal cord tissue composed of nerve fibers with myelin sheaths. This can lead to several different psychological issues and damage to the nervous system.
As a result, conditions such as Paralysis and Alzheimer’s Disease can occur and negatively affect the lives of others. Therefore, by preventing those younger than the age of 21 from drinking alcohol, it is essentially preventing conditions like this from happening. In the article “Tests of Causal Links Between Alcohol Abuse or Dependence and Major Depression,” a study was conducted to see whether or not the consumption of alcohol had a correlation with Major Depression.
The study found that the use of alcohol was significantly correlated with causing Major Depression. This is a major discovery as it means that if people were to drink more and more alcohol, then their chances of gaining a mental illness, such as Major Depression, increased. In order to prevent something like this from happening, it is best to keep the restrictions on alcohol in place. Preventing the masses from being able to purchase an item that is a major factor in mental illness helps prevent mental illness from occurring in them.
By allowing the drinking age to be lowered, there is a high chance that it could increase mortality rates as well. The study “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000” showed that approximately 83,000 deaths in the U.S. were caused by the consumption of alcohol. This number is significantly higher than the number of deaths caused by sexual violence, drug use, vehicle crashes, and firearm incidents. Since the drinking age requirement is one of the most powerful obstacles against the increase in alcohol consumption; if the drinking age were to ever be lowered, then this number would be expected to grow.
The more people are allowed to drink alcohol, the greater the chances there are of people dying due to alcohol consumption. According to Jürgen Rehm and Robin Room, the consumption of alcohol is a huge factor in the mortality rates of humans. After interviewing families about their late family members, it was discovered that many of the deceased members were involved in alcohol consumption. This pattern shows that many premature deaths were influenced directly or indirectly by the consumption of alcohol. This gives more grounds for people to go against the act of lowering the drinking age since it increases the chances of people involving themselves with the consumption of alcohol and, therefore, in effect, the chances of premature death as well.
Unraveling the Nexus: Alcohol Consumption and Crime
If the legal drinking age were to be lowered, then it’s highly likely that alcohol-related crimes would increase in the United States. According to “Alcohol and Crime,” “approximately 3 million violent crimes occur each year in which victims perceive the offender to have been drinking at the time of the offense.” This shows that many crimes occur when at least one individual has become under the influence. Those around this individual can become possible targets of serious crimes.
If we were to allow for the drinking age to be lowered, then that would allow a whole age group to possibly become under the influence and increase the number of crimes from 3 million to possibly 4 million. According to Thor Norstrom, areas with consumption of spirits and beers provided statistically significant data toward the increase in homicides and assaults. Greenfield’s research also shows that areas that have shown high alcohol consumption have shown an increase in the rate of crimes nearby. Once again, if we were to allow another age group to begin drinking, then this would mean that areas in which alcohol is being consumed will increase in size and, therefore, also increase the areas in which crime rates are elevated.
The Peril of Drunk Driving: A Case for Maintaining the Drinking Age at 21
The drinking age for alcohol consumption should remain at 21 because it helps prevent an increase in the amount of drunk driving. According to the NHTSA’s data for “Alcohol-Impaired Driving,” there was a recorded number of 51,914 drunk drivers in 2016 who were involved in accidents. This is important to note because in 2007, according to the same data, the number of drunk drivers recorded in accidents was 56,019 drivers. After nine years have passed, the amount of drunk drivers in accidents has decreased by approximately 4,000 drivers. This means if the same trend is kept in the next couple of years, then the amount of drunk drivers will begin to decrease. Yet, if the drinking age is lowered, then it would only do the opposite to these results. By allowing more people to drink, you are also allowing more people to be able to drink and drive.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 130 million drunk drivers were reported between 1993 and 2014. The data provided shows nearly a constant amount of drunk drivers every year (Impaired Driving). And since there has not been any major action taken to stop drunk driving, it is highly likely that this trend will continue in 2018. This means that drunk driving-associated accidents are still really likely to occur. The property damage that these accidents can cause is up in the millions, and the amount of lives these accidents can take is one too many to have. If the drinking age were lowered while this trend remained the same, then it is highly likely that the number of drunk drivers per year would increase, and the accidents associated with these would increase as well.
When it comes to the conversation of the age requirement to be able to legally consume alcohol, there will always be two sides. The ones who are against the lowering of the age and the ones who are for the lowering of the age. Those for the lowering of the drinking age argue that age 18 is when teens are now considered adults, and that should allow them the opportunity to make complete decisions over what they consume. This is a valid argument. It is true that at the age of 18, newly recognized adults are allowed to participate in voting, join the military, get married, and participate in the jury. However, the main issue is not what they can do but what they should do. After receiving several responsibilities and the ability to make their own decisions, these young adults are still too inexperienced. The taste of more freedom in their lives can be too overwhelming and can lead to bad decisions being made.
One of these decisions is the abuse of alcohol. If they are allowed to consume alcohol, their inexperience and new sense of freedom will cause them to be more likely to abuse their rights. As a result, they could possibly hurt themselves and anyone who is found around them. The right to consume alcohol is a matter of public safety. It is best to take the best measures possible to ensure that this safety is not breached, and that is why this law is in place.
It is in place to ensure that the abuse of the right does not lead to harm to oneself and others. The drinking age should not be lowered and should remain where it is at the age of 21. There is just too much risk associated with lowering the legal drinking age. The chances of contracting health issues, increasing the rate of mortalities, increasing the number of crimes, and increasing the amount of drunk driving could all result just by changing the 21 law.
As things currently are in this country, the drinking age should remain the same, but let’s not forget the future. One day, it could be possible for the drinking age to be lowered. The issue here is only the amount of risk that doing so might create. In order to convince others in the future to lower the drinking age, the reasons for not lowering the drinking age must be addressed, and evidence that represents the opposite results must be shown. All that is needed is time.
At this time, one of the most effective ways to one day change this law is by beginning to educate the people. Education about the use of alcohol and morals must be done in order to help prevent the reasons listed above from occurring. If people are aware of what they could possibly do and they are aware of what would be mutually beneficial for them as a society, then they will be able to drastically change the results. They will be able to change results so much that they will be able to minimize the risks enough to change the current law.
- “Alcohol ‘more damaging to brain health than marijuana'”.
- “Tests of Causal Links Between Alcohol Abuse or Dependence and Major Depression”.
- Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000 Source: “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000”.
- Alcohol and Crime Source: “Alcohol and Crime”.
- Impaired Driving Source: “Impaired Driving”.
- Rehm, J., & Room, R. (2007). Alcohol and mortality: Global alcohol-attributable deaths from cancer, liver cirrhosis, and injury in 2010. Alcohol Research & Health, 33(3), 332-339.