The legal drinking age in the United States is 21. There are just a few countries that have a similar high-end age limit for drinking. In fact, some countries have absolutely no limit on the age an individual can legally consume alcohol.
Part of the argument stems from the fact that in most areas of life an individual is acknowledged as an adult at the age of 18. They can vote, enlist in military service and most cases marry. With that amount of responsibility, why shouldn’t they be allowed to begin consuming alcohol legally at the same age?
Some groups assert that by lowering the drinking age, a parent can help teach their child how to drink responsibly before the age of 21. Many states do allow teens to consume alcohol in the presence of their parents before the age of 21.
Proponents of lowering the drinking age cite 20th-century prohibition as a reason to lower the age limit. The belief is that if prohibition failed because many citizens manufactured liquor in less than ideal ways to provide thirsty citizens a form of alcohol, then it stands to reason that there will be those who will find ways to drink even if they have not yet reached their 21st birthday.
What a lot of individuals do not understand is that individual states set the drinking age and no federal law exists for a minimum age limit for alcohol consumption. The reason many believe it is federally mandated is that in the 1980’s congress pressured states into adopting a higher legal drinking age or risk losing highway funds. In the face of a potential infrastructure crisis, all states eventually complied.
What research tends to suggest the staggering change in the drinking age laws is that many young people would cross state lines to consume alcohol if the neighboring state had a lower legal age limit. There is compelling research to indicate that alcohol-related traffic accidents and fatalities involving those under 21 have dropped dramatically since the age limit was bumped.
Despite reports that indicate binge drinking is the norm for those under 21 there is research to support the claim that there are fewer people between 18-21 drinking in the 21st century than there was before the universal change.
Further study indicates vandalism rates have decreased in many states with a higher legal age limit. Studies also suggest that teen suicide rates also decline when alcohol is removed from the picture.
There are those that state what a commonly held belief is, “Teens are going to drink anyway so why not lower the age limit so we can keep an eye on them.” This notion indicates that teens have no control over their decision-making; this same argument diverse about sex and drugs, yet it is clear that teens are capable of saying no to choices they conclude are unhealthy. Perhaps we are not giving them enough credit. Where there is a strong commitment to enforcement of minor in possession laws, there seems to be a corresponding reduction in problems that can be overlooked in some jurisdictions.
Lives are being saved because a law exists that seeks to help young people grow into responsible adults while attempting to keep those on the highway safe. Is the ultimate problem one where young people demand rights or parents that abdicate their role when it comes to alcohol consumption?
Someone once said people (children included) tend to rise or fall to your expectations. What do your children honestly believe you expect from them? Maybe it’s time to tell them.
2 Powerful Reasons Why the Highest Drinking Age Is 21
Why is the drinking age set at 21? This question is always asked by the minor who seeks to drink or is already drinking. In working with an adolescent multitude, I hear the litany of justifications that youth have for taking alcohol underage and why they feel the laws are unjust. The problem is that they also share these thoughts with their parents, and often the parents may take one or more of these justifications as a reason to be lenient on the child’s attitude.
Many important facts lead to a minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) of 21. These facts should be considered by parents when talking with their child to avoid being coerced by their adolescent logic. I have explained two important facts below, in hopes that parents can make use of the information when talking about underage alcohol drinking.
- It is true that there is a general MLDA of 21 in all states. There was a time when each state could set different age limits. However, we realized there to be more risk not less. From 1970 to 1975, several states reduced the drinking age to 18, 19 or 20 years of age. Because there were diverse MLDAs, there was an increase of teens over the state lines to get alcohol which increased the risk of drinking and driving and alcohol-related fatal car accidents. During this period we also noticed an increase in school challenges and violence such as rape. This resulted in Congress passing the National Minimum Alcohol Drinking Age Act of 1984. States were given a financial incentive to change the age limit to 21, and suddenly, all states did meet that guideline.
- It is true that other countries do not all hold similar age limit. Some countries don’t even have legal regulations on consumption age. A lot of teens will report that other countries with more liberal views of drinking have less alcohol-related problems. Their logic being that our country is “extremely uptight” and we should, however, normalize drinking like these practices. However, statistics again prove that these cultures have more, not less, alcohol-related problems.
The simple answer to why the drinking age is 21 is because we have found it to be safer for all concerned. Teenagers may use rationalizations to justify their behavior, but the bottom line is that safety has motivated the regulation. To ensure the safety of our young people, we need to advocate adherence to this age limit.