Argument: Safer roads with 21 drinking laws outweighs all trade-offs

Issue Report: Lowering US drinking age from 21 to 18


Buddy T. “The Lower Drinking Age Debate”. November 23, 2003
We Tried It Before
The drinking age was first lowered to 18 in many states back in the Vietnam War era. The country was asking thousands of its young men to fight and die for their country on foreign soil, so the popular thinking was, “How can we ask them to die for their country and not let them have a drink if they want one?”

But the lower drinking age begin to take a toll on the nation’s highways. The number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities began to rise at alarming rates, and a high percentage of those involved young drivers. Congress again put pressure on the states to raise the drinking age because of this startling increase in highway deaths.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that raising the drink age to 21 has reduced traffic fatalities involving 18- to 20-year-old drivers by 13 percent and has saved an estimated 19,121 lives since 1975. Twenty of twenty-nine studies conducted between 1981 and 1992 reported significant decreases in traffic crashes and crash fatalities following an increase in drinking age.

Simply Saves Lives
Over 40 percent of all the 16-to-20 year olds who died in 1994 were killed in car crashes, half of which were alcohol-related. The number of intoxicated youth drivers in fatal crashes dropped 14.3 percent from 1983 to 1994 — the largest decrease of any age group during this time period — indicating that the higher legal drinking age simply saves lives.