The U.S. legal drinking age is 21, why should it change? It’s the safest way to regulate drinking for teens and prevent unnecessary accidents, right? Wrong. Many Americans and congressional leaders share this misconception.
Law enforcement hardly regulates the drinking age. Two in every thousand cases of underage drinking result in legal action, yet its illegality gives teens an adrenaline rush, a chemical release that could result in binge drinking.
The CDC defines binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 g/dl or above.” In short, four to five drinks in two hours is considered a binge. Because teens are restricted from restaurants and bars where waiters and bartenders can keep an eye on them, alone they may consume copious amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time.
Lowering the legal drinking age would decrease underage binge drinking, allowing currently underage people to consume alcohol at a more healthy rate in a regulated environment.
“It’s estimated that about half of all alcohol-related deaths in the United States are related to acute intoxication, and most of the economic costs are also related to binge drinking,” said Dr. Timothy Naimi, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and co-author of the CDC’s binge drinking study.
Binge drinking increases the chances of death by alcohol poisoning and causes a depressed gag reflex, which may lead to someone choking on their own vomit. The change of the drinking age will more effectively regulate the drinking rate of younger people, keeping them more safe.
Some argue that lowering the legal age of alcohol consumption would increase drunk driving accidents, but statistics prove otherwise. In the U.S., drunk driving accidents account for 31% of traffic accidents, even with a drinking age of twenty-one. Other countries drink earlier but are safer: 16% drunk driving accidents in the U.K. (MLDA 18), 9% in Germany (MLDA 16), 4% in China (MLDA 18).
The legal drinking age must be changed to improve the safety of all drivers. This circles back to regulated areas for teens to safely consume alcohol. In fraternity houses and home-parties, nobody will stop an eighteen year-old from jumping behind the wheel, but in a restaurant or a bar, a more public scene, someone is more likely to hold a teen accountable.
Changing the drinking age to eighteen would not only improve safety among teens, but also contribute to limiting drunk driving accidents. Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 50 minutes. This change would save lives and prohibit future alcoholism among generations to come.