Argument: 21 law causes reckless/unsupervised under-age drinking

Issue Report: Lowering US drinking age from 21 to 18


Sean Flynn. “Should The Drinking Age Be Lowered?”. 12 Aug. 2007 – because 18-year-olds—adults in most other senses —generally can’t drink legally in bars and restaurants, they tend to drink in dorm rooms, on isolated fields and at unsupervised house parties, where adults can’t watch them. And in those environments, the drinking can be dangerous—especially among young people who have no practical experience with alcohol yet years of exposure to a social and advertising culture that encourages drinking.

Sean Flynn. “Should The Drinking Age Be Lowered?”. 12 Aug. 2007 – On the night of Sept. 16, 2004, Gordie Bailey and 26 other young men gathered in a forest outside Boulder, Colo., as part of an initiation ritual. Between them, they drank seven liters of whiskey and nine liters of wine in less than an hour. When the bottles were empty, they returned to a fraternity house at the University of Colorado. Gordie’s fraternity brothers found him dead in the morning.

…stepfather, Michael Lanahan, who helps run a family foundation focused on hazing and reckless drinking. “The total environment has to be looked at. The worst thing is to drive these kids underground.”

“Debate on lower drinking age bubbling up”. MSNBC. 14 Aug. 2007 – Opponents of the idea point to a reported rise in binge drinking as teenagers increasingly turn to hard liquor as proof that minors should not be allowed to drink, but proponents look at the same data and draw the opposite conclusion.

“Raising the drinking age to 21 was passed with the very best of intentions, but it’s had the very worst of outcomes,” said David J. Hanson, an alcohol policy expert at the State University of New York-Potsdam. “Just like during national Prohibition, the law has pushed and forced underage drinking and youthful drinking underground, where we have no control over it.”

“Lower the U.S. Legal Drinking Age to 18”. Online Petition – One approach to reckless imbibing gaining currency among college administrators is unconventional and even counterintuitive. It argues for accepting that college-age kids are going to drink and for encouraging them to do so safely. Some campus officials recommend bowing to reality and lowering the drinking age, as 29 states did in the early ’70s. By 1988, in response to the national mood against drunk driving and a threat by the Federal Government to cut off highway funding, every state had a minimum drinking age of 21.

Researchers at the University of Michigan who studied the effects of the increase in the drinking age found that states on average reduced drinking among high school seniors 13.3%. The change also contributed to a 58% drop in alcohol-related auto deaths among 15- to 20-year-olds since 1982. A small chorus of university leaders believe, however, that the higher drinking age has in some ways made drinking more dangerous.

When drinking is legal, they argue, it takes place in the open, where it can be supervised by police, security guards and even health-care workers. When the drinking age went up, the spigot wasn’t turned off, it was simply moved underground–to homes or cars or frat-house basements–where no adult could keep an eye on things. When kids who are drinking on the sly do venture out, they often “pre-load” first, fueling up on as much alcohol as they can hold before the evening begins so that the buzz lasts as long as possible. As for the reduction in traffic fatalities? Skeptics believe it may have less to do with changing the drinking age than with the new mores about drunk driving and the more aggressive enforcement of DUI laws.