30 Years Later, is 21 Still the Right Age for Alcohol Consumption?
National Minimum Drinking Age Act's Anniversary Met With Criticism
In 1984, young adults ages 16-20 accounted for 61% of drunk driving fatalities. Many saw this as a disturbingly high number, including government representatives. Their solution? Raise the minimum drinking age to 21.
It appeared as though the move was a success – drunk driving fatalities were cut in half for this group by 1995. The celebration was tainted, however, by one, glaring follow-up statistic: A spike in alcohol use by minors followed the altered drinking age. Now, developmental scientists are reexamining the effectiveness of 21 as the legal drinking age.
In studies done by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Harvard University, and Monitoring the Future, researchers have found a few things to be concerned about. With the teenage tendency to seek risk and forego consequence in mind, some dangerous stats come up:
- 7 out of 10 college students (both under and of legal age) drink regularly
- 70% of those who do are binge drinking
- The centers of the brain that control impulse and foresee consequences don't develop until a person's 20's
Is Younger Better?
Teens typically learn best from experience. One researcher offers that the drinking and driving ages should be switched – a full license comes at 21 while teens can legally drink at 18. But why?
- Some agree that it's safer to learn about alcohol by experiencing the consequences of drinking as opposed to learning the consequences of inexperienced driving by having an accident.
- Time allows children to learn and understand the effects and risks of alcohol before getting on the road.
- Waiting to drive allows the brain more time to develop and learn about driving vehicle risks (16-year-olds are eight times as likely to crash than someone who waits a year or two to get their first license).
Were You or Your Child Injured by a Dangerous Product?
No matter your opinion on the legal drinking age, our firm urges parents and teens alike, please: Don't Drink and Drive.