Should the U.S. lower the legal drinking age?

The legal consumption of alcohol for ages 21 and over was set in place for public safety in 1984 under the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. This act restricted anyone under the age of 21 to consume or have in their possession alcohol of any kind. However, over recent years the federal government has placed into consideration lowering the legal drinking age to 18. kidsdrinking_story1

Should the government do this? And what would it mean for the young adults of today’s and future society?

The 1984 act, while it restricts the consumption of alcohol by those under the age limit, can’t actually stop kids from drinking. John McCardell, president of Vermont College and featured on a 60 minute video debate in 2009 stated to CBS,

“The law is a failure and drinking [which] hasn’t been reduced or eliminated, [is only being] driven to the risky and least manageable situations.”

Although the law tries to restrict underage drinking, it is arguable that it doesn’t do much more than confine the parties of underage drinkers to dingy apartments and force those who are going to consume alcohol regardless of the law to go about it more riskily. It’s also notable that many other countries such as China, New Zealand, the U.K., Costa Rica and Denmark, have the minimum drinking age as 18. In fact, a majority of countries hold to an 18 and over policy. Still, others including Italy, Australia and Switzerland, set the legal age at 16.


Since many other countries are lenient on the minimum drinking age, the U.S. has been debating whether or not to lower the drinking age within the states to 18 years of age. But once the age limit is dropped, what effect will it have on young people in the U.S.? Won’t that just allow for a greater number of people to be at risk of substance abuse and endangering others by driving while intoxicated?

If the drinking age is lowered, it is likely that a greater number of individuals will be prompted to buy and drink alcohol without the worry of consequence. It’s possible that this would be reflected in drunk driving incidents. Drunk driving is already the cause of over 10,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. And the highest percent of drunk drivers are in the 21-24 age demographic. There’s a reason for that:

“Researchers have shown that even a small amount of alcohol can disrupt a person’s ability to concentrate or do two things at once. For less experienced drivers, one or two drinks can cause the loss of reasoning and reaction time that results in a fatal crash.” Hannah Fairfield, The New York Times

Even at 21, after potentially having their driver’s license for five years, individuals are more likely to get into drunk driving accidents than those 25 and older. If the drinking age were lowered to 18, when drivers will have only had their driver’s licenses for about two years, one can only imagine the consequences of their decision to drink and drive.

What do you think the decision should be? Keep the legal age or lower it? And what other consequences might there be?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.