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Michael Schafle
Michael Schafle
Attorney • (215) 790-4577

Should The Drinking Age Be Lowered?

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It is a well known fact that abuse of alcohol is prevalent on college campuses and within the entire 18-21 year-old demographic. The question is whether reducing the drinking age from 21 to 18 would result in a reduction of alcohol abuse in that demographic. It is an age old debate that stems from the imposition of the 21 year-old drinking age from the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. Prior to that Act, states could set their own drinking ages. At the time the act was being considered, it faced strong opposition. On the side of maintaining a lower age, the frequently heard advocacy was “if I am old enough to vote and die for my country in war, then I should be allowed to consume alcohol.” However, these arguments fell on deaf ears. At the time this Act was made law, the argument for a higher drinking age was that it would somehow result in less alcohol abuse and less drinking and driving. While I haven’t been able to find any statistics on the issue, I would venture to guess that drunk driving arrests in this demographic have drastically increased since 1984.

The main issue for people in this demographic is that the imposition of drinking age still makes them feel as though they are not adults and that their rights are being encumbered. As history has showed us, a natural response to this feeling is defiance. In this case, defiance manifests itself in excessive consumption and abuse of alcohol. Perhaps if this demographic didn’t feel as if consumption was taboo or outside the bounds of the law, then drinking (and more importantly binge drinking) would lose its appeal. The only way to accomplish this is to reduce the drinking age to 18. I believe such action would certainly result in more responsible drinking and increased safety on the roadways. The intended aggregate effect is less loss of life.

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    I would also add that allowing states to control their own minimum drinking age causes “border hopping” where underage drinkers in one state drive to border states with 18-year old legal limit laws.

    Locally, there has been a large increase in 19-year old Illinois kids involved in traffic accidents as a result of Illinois changing to a 21 year old minimum drinking age while Wisconsin maintained their 18 year old legal limit.

    If we are truly concerned with the overall safety issue of 18-21 year olds drinking, then, its imperative the discussion include the attraction of border states with lower legal limits for drinking age.