Editorial: A Sip of Compromise
March 15, 2012
Eighteen-year-olds are given the freedom of being legal adults. They have the right to get married, young 18-year-old-men are required to sign themselves into the military, they are legally tried in court as adults, they can take guardianship over others, they can vote on how our country is governed, but they cannot drink alcohol. If 18-year-olds are responsible enough to have all those freedoms, they should have the freedom to drink.
The main conflict with underage drinking is the result of driving impairment. According to First Eagle Insurance statistics, 60% of all teen deaths in car accidents are alcohol-related. The zero tolerance driving law is strictly enforced to prevent this kind of tragedy from occurring. Pressure to drink and drive mainly stems from curfews, parental disapproval, pride, peer pressure, and impaired judgment. Therefore, why change the zero tolerance law? No one should be drinking and driving, especially the youth who are just learning how to drive. If the drinking age could be changed, the zero tolerance law should remain intact, if not more strongly enforced, to eliminate the fundamental problem.
The United States, which set its current drinking age in 1984, is one of the few countries that force teens to wait until 21 to drink, unlike the 16 to 18 year old drinking age set in most other countries. However, according to a 2010 statistic on the alcohol news website, 80% of high school seniors in the United States admit to trying one drink. At M-A alone, 42 out of 64 of this year’s junior and senior students drink alcohol, meaning they drink at parties frequently. Eight others stated that they drink on a few occasions when offered.
Fake I.D.s are very common throughout the U.S. and many youths get away with purchasing alcohol. It is also widely known and assumed that college students have easy access to alcohol, starting their drinking experiences around the age of 18 anyway. The current law is weakly and inconsistently enforced and does not stop or threaten most underage drinkers.
The other argument against lowering the drinking age is encouraging alcoholism early on. However, the fact of the matter is that the majority of college students drink anyway. The Core Institute stated that 73% of college students drink at least weekly. The youth will continue to drink with or without the lowered drinking age. 21-year-olds are no more prepared than 18-years-olds for the effects that alcohol brings. Although it is biologically known that the brain is more developed by 21 (yes, the brain develops as one gets older) this does not mean one will make better decisions under the influence of alcohol in that 3-year gap. Whether one is 18 or 21, they are no more emotionally ready to act in the correct manner when drunk. It would be safer for the 18-year-olds who will drink regardless to be protected by the law instead of having them sneak around, putting themselves in danger for fear of the legal consequences of drinking.
How one handles their alcohol and manages their consumption varies from person to person based on personality, size, experience, and genetics. No matter the age, suicides, car accidents, and deaths will result from alcohol. No matter the age one starts drinking, the effects will be severe. Whether 18 or 21, all drinkers must get used to the effects and learn from their alcohol experiences and mistakes.