Although 21 is the drinking age in all 50 states in the US, it wasn’t always that way. Before highway funds were tied to a mandated national drinking age in 1984, some 30 states had already lowered the legal drinking age to 18 or 19. The age of 18 is treated as the age of majority, so this age demographic is allowed to serve in the military, vote, and smoke, but they aren’t allowed to drink.
Facts About Lowering the Drinking Age to 18
1. 4,300. That’s the number of deaths that are attributed to underage drinking in the United States every year.
2. 67% of high school students self-report that they binge drink regularly, or have 5 drinks within a limited time span.
3. There are approximately 1.5 billion episodes of binge drinking among persons aged 18 years or older in the United States annually, but most incidents occur when adults at or above the age of 26 are present.
4. 17.5% of the alcohol that is purchased in the United States comes from underage purchasers.
5. In 2009, the 21- to 24-year-old age group had the highest percentage of drivers in fatal crashes with a higher than legal BAC level.
6. The rates of fatal traffic accidents has not decreased as much as it has in Europe since the adoption of a 21 only drinking age in 1984, despite Europe having younger drinking ages.
7. Since 1982, there has been a decline of drunk driving fatalities in all age demographics, which means a 21 only drinking age cannot be the only cause of this reduction.
8. In 2006, 72.2% of twelfth graders reported drinking alcohol at some point in their lives.
9. Only 1 out of every 500 underage drinking incidents in the US will result in an arrest.
10. 72% of the studies examined in 2002 on legal drinking ages and social or health problems found no statistically significant relationship despite claims that lowering the MLDA to 18 would increase suicide and criminal activities by adolescents.
11. Binge drinking peaks among 21-5-year-olds at 45.9%. The 18-20 age demographic binge drinks at a 35.7% rate, despite it being illegal.
12. The number of Americans who would oppose lowering the drinking age to 18: 77%.
13. Adults in the 18–25 age demographic report that on average, they drank on 36 days in the previous year and typically consumed 5.1 drinks on the days they drank.
The argument against lowering the drinking age to 18 is that it would be medically irresponsible to do so. At the age of 18, there is still growth going on that could be disrupted by the inclusion of alcohol. This may even lead to chronic health problems later on in life. Yet in 29 states in the US right now, it is legal for someone to drink at the age of 18 as long as it is done at a private premises and with parental consent.
Should we be lowering the drinking age to 18? The statistics seem to prove that this is a good idea.
Is There a Danger To Lowering the Drinking Age to 18?
After the drinking age was lowered to 18 in the 1970’s, several states noted that there was an increase in highway accidents and fatalities. It is true that people are typically more mature at the age of 21 then at age 18, but there is also a certain stigma on alcohol that American society has.
In France, for example, children as young as 6 are given wine at the dinner table. Alcohol consumption isn’t glorified or treated as something that can express rebellion. It is treated as a normal part of life. In return, binge drinking rates are much lower.
A similar approach could be adopted in the United States. By introducing alcohol in small amounts and showing children that there is nothing “special” about these beverages, their consumption could be more regulated so that binge drinking and the associated bad choices that come with such an action can be ultimately avoided.
Should the Drinking Age Stay At 21?
Until Federal policy changes, 10% of the highway funds a state receives will still be connected to a 21 only drinking age. This accounts for millions of dollars annually, so change has to occur nationally before it occurs regionally. Contacting your local representatives about this issue is one of the best ways to start change if you believe the drinking age should be lowered to 18. Share facts and statistics like these and you’ll be able to compose a convincing argument.