The Debate Over Driving Under the Influence: Legal Drinking Age
National Minimum Drinking Age Act and Its Debate
21 is the age every young person looks forward to in America. It is the age when citizens are legally able to drink. This was established in 1984 when Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act (APIS P 1). Some believe the age should be lowered because you are considered a legal adult at 18 and can enlist in the military if you want to. Others believe raising the age would be safer because as you age, it is assumed you are more mature. It has been a long debate due to both sides having convincing arguments. The question is, can lawmakers and citizens meet in the middle to come up with an age that both can agree on? In my opinion, I believe that the drinking age should be lowered.
Driving Under the Influence and Its Consequences
People who believe the age to consume alcohol should be raised are looking towards increasing not only the safety of the consumer but the people around them. Drunk driving is one of the top priorities to decrease. According to Bankrate, “Alcohol is a leading cause of traffic fatalities. Drinking and driving kills 28 people a day in the U.S. — about one person every 52 minutes — according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Rivelli, 2022).
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Brain Development and Health Concerns
At the age of 21, your brain still hasn’t fully developed. It isn’t till you turn 25 that your brain is fully formed. According to The University of Rochester Medical Center, “Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part” (Campellone 2022). Due to young adults not having an awareness of long-term outcomes, they are more likely to drink and drive because they may feel invincible and think nothing bad could happen to them, or they could give in to the emotional part of the brain and give in to peer pressure.
Lowering the Age: Freedom, Responsibility, and Economic Impact
Proponents of lowering the age of drinking alcohol are looking at it from a perspective of freedom and responsibility. When you turn 18, you can vote, enlist in the military, get sentenced to an adult term in jail, and even buy a shotgun. All of these activities that you can do at 18 are something you should do when you are mature; if they think you have the responsibility to partake in these, why can’t people legally drink as well? By allowing people younger than 21 to drink, it allows more consumers to spend money on alcoholic beverages. It can also decrease the cost of putting people in incarceration.
Education as a Potential Solution
A compromise that can be made to help keep people safe and happy is ultimately educating. In most High Schools, we are taught just to abstain from drinking. This is the same thing with sex education as well. Instead of educators trying to ignore the fact that most young people partake in these activities, they should teach young people how to be safe and responsible. Overall, the age limitation for drinking will continue to be an ongoing debate. With teachers and parents educating younger people about the responsibilities they will need to have with alcohol, I believe it will teach them to be safe, and it can also build more trust and be more open if there are issues.
- APIS (Alcohol Policy Information System). “National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984.” Retrieved from https://alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.gov/national-minimum-drinking-age-act-1984-1
- Rivelli, Tony. “Drunk driving kills 28 people a day in the U.S.” Bankrate, 2022. Retrieved from https://www.bankrate.com/insurance/car/alcohol-related-driving-deaths/
- Campellone, Joseph. “Teens process information with the amygdala.” University of Rochester Medical Center, 2022. Retrieved from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=3051
- “Why 21: MADD’s Mission to Eliminate Drunk Driving.” Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 2022. Retrieved from https://www.madd.org/the-solution/why-21/
- “Alcohol Fact.” Better Health Channel, 2022. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/alcohol-its-effects
- NIH (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). “College Drinking.” Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/college-drinking
- World Atlas. “Countries with the Highest Drinking Ages.” Retrieved from https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/countries-with-the-highest-drinking-ages.html
- Swartz, Kyle. “The Economic Impact of America’s Beer, Wine, and Spirits Retail Industry.” Beverage Dynamics, 2018. Retrieved from https://beveragedynamics.com/2018/05/09/economic-impact-of-americas-alcohol-industry/
- Barajas, Joshua. “Underage Drinking in America: How Many People are Arrested Each Year?” National Youth Rights Association, 2019. Retrieved from https://www.youthrights.org/issues/drinking-age/underage-drinking-in-america/