Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Raise the Drinking Age

You'll probably be amazed by these facts:

  • Traffic crashes are the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United States. More people under 35 die from alcohol-related incidents than from all other illicit drugs combined (and by a wide margin).
  • Research indicates that if the minimum legal drinking age is raised to 35, people under age 35 will drink less overall and continue to do so for the rest of their lives.
  • If the drinking age is raised to 35, injury and death rates of people under 35 will decrease significantly. It is estimated that as many as 4,000 lives could be saved each and every year if the drinking age were raised to 35.
  • People who start drinking before age 25, compared to those who wait until age 35, are significantly more likely to be in a motor vehicle crash after drinking and are much more likely to be in a physical fight after drinking.
  • Alcohol use by people under 35, particularly when such use is heavy enough to result in withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of drinking, negatively impacts memory and attention, abilities necessary for a successful adulthood. 
You're probably wondering why I'm writing this. Well, I recently read of a campaign by about 100 university presidents to lower the drinking age to 18. They argue that people age 18-21 are going to drink anyway, but they will do so in a more dangerous way if it is illegal.

But, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other organizations are opposed to it. Yet, pretty much every argument they make could just as easily apply to raising the drinking age to 35 (those bullet points at the top might sound familiar). You can't be elected President until you're 35 years old -- why should you be able to drink before then?

I agree 100% with MADD's mission statement, which I'll quote here:
"The mission of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking."
MADD was formed in 1980, but it wasn't until 1999 that the last clause "and prevent underage drinking" was added to their mission statement. It seems that the people at MADD have forgotten the purpose of their organization: Prevent drunk driving. It's that simple. Eighteen-year-olds are not underage. They are adults. They can vote. They can be tried as adults for crimes they commit. They can enlist in the military and they can die for their country. But they can't drink.

I think this is just stupid. As stupid as raising the drinking age to 35.

Just to make sure ... those who know me know that I am not much of a drinker. On average, I have a drink a month. I am not advocating drinking, underage drinking, or any illegal acts. And I am certainly not saying drunk driving should be tolerated under any condition. If you are impaired in any way, because you've been drinking or for any other reason, you should not be driving. Period. No excuses.

MADD and others advocates of the 21-year-old drinking age are wasting resources that could go toward combating drunk driving. They should concentrate on the real problems, not on depriving some adults of their rights.