Cmon! Everyone else is doing it, why can’t we? Does that plea sound familiar? In many situations, people often look to see what others do to guide their own actions. However, this may not always lead people into making the best decisions. An example of such a decision making process is whether or not the drinking age in the United States should be lowered to eighteen years of age. While most of the world embraces an eighteen year old, or lower, minimum age for drinking alcohol, the United states is only one of four countries who have set the drinking age to twenty-one (Hanson).
Therefore, the United States faces many pressures to lower the drinking age, but should we follow the logic that everyone is doing it and lower the drinking age? The answer to that question for numerous reasons is no! As we all know the United States is different than every other country in the world with many college and university campuses throughout the nation. These campuses are home to thousands of underage students with significant freedom and independence who have yet to fully develop their decision making process.
Lowering of the minimum legal drinking age would cause a number of problems including an increase in: health problems, vehicle accidents, and plain old bad decisions. When thinking about priorities, one of the most important things people value is their personal health. Personal health is essential to live a fulfilling life, an unhealthy person is unable to enjoy all the things life has to offer. Therefore, with this priority in mind people should want their bodies to develop completely and to be healthy.
With healthy fully developed bodies people will be able to better enjoy their lives and avoid future health problems. With a lower drinking age this proves to be impossible. As we all know, alcohol does not have very many health benefits – rather, it offers a number of unhealthy side effects especially with heavy consumption. Research has shown that, “The brain’s frontal lobes, essential for functions such as emotional regulation, planning, and organization, continue to develop through adolescence and young adulthood. Alcohol consumption can interfere with this development…” (“Drinking Age”).
Therefore, as students between the ages of eighteen and nineteen, even twenty are still developing cognitively. Giving these adolescents legal permission to drink would be irresponsible and potentially very harmful to their health and development. A lower minimum drinking age would hinder their abilities in many areas as the continuation of the previous quotation shows, “…potentially causing chronic problems such as greater vulnerability to addiction, dangerous risk-taking behavior, reduced decision-making ability, memory loss, depression, violence, and suicide” (“Drinking Age”).
The heavy consumption of alcohol, often done at high school parties and on college campus can have major and long term effects of the brains development. In today’s world, addictions, depression, and suicide are very serious issues that many adolescents deal with every day. The nation has a responsibility to theses adolescents to help eliminate cases of addictions, suicide, depression, violent behavior and dangerous risk taking behavior, all problems closely associated with underage consumption of alcohol.
Keeping the minimum legal drinking age at twenty-one, will allow a student’s brain to develop completely before we legally allow them to consume alcohol. Maintaining a drinking age at twenty-one years of age lowers the chances of students suffering from the negative effects of heavy alcohol consumption. The United States should not dismiss these serious side effects but enforce the minimum drink age of twenty-one especially among students. Not only does keeping the drinking age at twenty-one increase health benefits, but also benefits their education.
Many adolescents nearing the drinking age are full time students in high school and college. Heavy consumption of alcohol during these key years for learning and exploring the world can hinder their ability and motivation to learn, as well as their ability to retain knowledge. Therefore, for the sheer sake of health, the minimum drinking age should remain at twenty-one years of age. Another concern regarding health and safety arises from lowering the drinking age. Lowering the drinking age would increase the number of accidents caused by the consumption of alcohol.
Plain logic tells us that if the number of people able to drink increases significantly, the number of drunk drivers will most likely increase as well. However, looking at statistics from studies allows us to see the value in having a higher drinking age: “According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, increasing the minimum drinking age to 21 is credited with having saved 18,220 lives on the nation’s highways between 1975 and 1998” (Arnold-Burger). Since the study only goes up to 1998, the number of lives saved by a higher drinking age has most likely increased significantly.
The increase in motor vehicle accidents from 1970 to 1975 was the main reason why the drinking age was raised to twenty-one in 1984. “The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 required all states to raise their minimum purchase and public possession of alcohol age to 21” (Hanson). Although the drinking age is a state law and is not decided by the federal government, states were forced to comply. “States that did not comply faced a reduction in highway funds under the Federal Highway Aid Act” (Hanson). Apparently, states would prefer federal highway funds to a lower drinking age.
Supporters of a lower drinking age may try and refute increased drunk driving as an argument for a higher drinking age by saying there are preventative measures that can be done to handle almost all cases of drunk driving. One example that has been argued is prevention locks that will not start the car without the operator blowing into a breathalyzer to measure their blood alcohol level (Hanson). Thus, the car would not start if the operator was intoxicated. While this seems like an effective way to prevent drunk driving it would require a lot of money and would be very inconvenient for day to day driving.
It would also require new technologies to be adapted for use in cars. With so many different brands, makers, and engineers of cars it would require a large amount of capital and campaigning to get breathalyzers installed in cars. Not to mention that such a devise would be effective for use on weekends but in regular weekday driving it would prove to be a major inconvenience. Installing breathalyzers in cars will also be difficult because nearly all car brands are international and different cultures treat drinking differently.
In foreign countries such as Europe, where alcohol consumption is allowed at a much younger age, alcohol is seen in a more relaxed light. Alcohol is often consumed heavily in a family setting and is viewed as just another drink (“U. S. Drinks”). In these countries they would certainly be opposed to the installation of drunken driving prevention locks. The World Health Organization showed that in a study of Europe and the United States, “…found that the highest number of alcohol related vehicle deaths occurred in Europe and America in those aged between 15 and 29” (“U. S. Drinks”).
Data from the same study showed that from 2000-2005 Europe had more alcohol related deaths than the United States in every age group. This statistic becomes even more shocking when we take into account car sage tendencies in Europe and the United States. The United States heavily relies on cars, as demonstrated by rapidly rising gas prices. Europe more effectively utilizes many other forms of transportation including buses, subways, and trains. If the United States were to allow adolescents who lack critical driving experience to drink legally we would see a large increase in the number of alcohol related accidents.
Statistics and logic are a great argument for maintaining a higher drinking age. As a high school junior and soon to be a college student I have seen firsthand and have heard stories from friends already in college the way alcohol affects underage students. Many high school students, who are ready to live the college life, go to college and get carried away with underage drinking. Alcohol clouds their judgment and often leads them to make bad decisions or decisions they would not make sober.
While common issues are minor such as embarrassment, falling, or throwing up; it has also led to more serious events such as fighting, hurting themselves or others, and getting in trouble with law enforcement (“Drinking Age”). There are many college students that do participate in alcohol related activities illegally but many students refrain from the consumption of alcohol until it is legal. Some students use the higher legal drinking age as a defense for why they do not drink in attempt to avoid peer pressure.
Lowering the drinking age of alcohol would remove this safety net for students who are trying to be safe, and leave them with limited excuses to avoid their peer’s childish ridicule. Lastly, a more personal plea is often made. If a person is old enough to serve in the armed forces he/she should be able to make their own decision about alcohol. Joining the armed forces is a voluntary and honorable action made by many people. Even though someone is willing to defend their country it does not mean that their brain is fully developed. Keeping the drinking
age at twenty one is in the best interest of the soldiers just as it is for a student because it allows for full development of the body. Heavy underage consumption in soldiers can still lead to addiction, depression and suicide as well as hindering their ability to learn and retain information. It may also mask more intense psychological or emotional problems that have developed from fighting in wars Therefore, just because someone is willing to honorably defend the country, does not mean we should lower the drinking age and allow all the bad side effects and outcomes listed above to happen.
If anything we should keep the minimum drinking age at twenty-one so that people can continue to be safe and healthy. As a highly debated topic in the United States, arguments will be made for both maintaining and lowering the drinking age. However, following the majority does not always represent the right choice. Looking at the direct health effects of alcohol on the growing adolescent brain, the rise in safer driving, and the personal choices of students, it should be evident that the right thing to do is keep the legal minimum drinking age of alcohol at twenty-one.
Maybe we shouldn’t conform to the majority, but rather keep doing what we have been doing and be the leading example for the rest of the world! Work Cited Arnold-Burger, Karen. “Regional Prevention Center. ” Regional Prevention Center. 9 Oct. 2012. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. . Crane, Rob. “Lowering the Drinking Age is Simply Raising the Risks. ” The Columbus Dispatch. [Columbus] 29 August 2008, Home Final: 11A “Drinking Age ProCon. org”. Drinking Age ProCon. org. N. p. , 5 Dec. 2012. Web. 9 Dec.
2012. . Engs, Ruth. “Why the drinking age should be lowered: An opinion based upon research. ” Indiana on the Internet. Ed. Karen Scrivo. 1998. Indiana University. 1 December 2012. Hanson, David J. “Alcohol: Problems and Solutions. ” Web log post. Minimum Legal Drinking Ages around the World. N. p. , 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 17 Dec. 2012. . “U. S. Drinks the Lowest Amount of Alcohol in the Developed World, Figures Reveal. ” Mail Online. Daily Mail Reporter Online, 17 Feb. 2011. Web. 8 Dec. 2012. .