Last week, a large group of college/university presidents joined together to voice their support for lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18.
Proponents of such changes may not be aware that reverting to these policies costs lives. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has compiled strong evidence demonstrating the consequences of lowering the drinking age. For example:
- As one of the most studied public health laws in history, the scientific research from more than 50 high-quality studies all found that the 21 law saves lives. Studies show that the 21 law causes those under the age of 21 to drink less and to continue to drink less throughout their 20s.
- About 5,000 people under age 21 die each year due to underage drinking. This does not include sexual assaults, violence and injuries.
- The earlier youth drink (average age of first drink is about 16), the more likely they will become dependent on alcohol and drive drunk later in life.
- Setting the drinking age at 21 has saved lives on our roads. Between 1983 and 1989, the number of drivers at a .10 BAC (the old illegal limit for adults) involved in fatal crashes increased, except for two age groups – 16-20 year olds, which decreased 32 percent, and 21-24 year olds, which decreased 18 percent.
- The Centers for Disease Control has looked at 49 peer-reviewed studies of places that changed their drinking age and found conclusively that a 21 minimum drinking age decreases fatalities by 16 percent.
- All underage drinking is unsafe drinking. Research has shown that the brain continues to
develop into the early twenties. The part that controls reasoning and cognitive ability takes the longest to mature; thus, underage drinking, especially heavy drinking, affects memory and reasoning. The part of the brain responsible for forming new memories, is noticeably smaller in youth who abuse alcohol. Alcohol use in adolescence also decreases executive functioning, memory, spatial operations, and attention among adolescents.
Make a decision and take a stand: voice your support for the 21 mimimum legal drinking age to your friend, family and legislators.
Bulleted information above is a summary of MADD's data written by Ken Shapiro of the Office of National Dru Control Policy.