Lowering the Drinking Age to 18
Debate Rounds (3)
The age of drinking has in the past been changed due to drinking fatalities increasing over a period of time when the drinking age was 18. Ronald Raegan placed the national drinking age to be 21 years old, and by reinforcing this Act Ronald Raegan threatened the loss of millions of dollars in highway funds. In the middle of the 1980s, Ronald Reagan adopted the Federal Uniform Drinking age Act of 1984 to the law. This act mandated that each states would move the legal drinking age to 21 years old for the following five years. This act was a kind of test run to see if raising the drinking age from 18 years old to 21 would lower alcohol related fatalities. However, this act stated that states that did not wish to conform to the act would experience massive reductions in their federal highway funds. The Mother Against Drunk Driving played a major role in this determination to change the law. They manipulated politicians to believing that by voting against this bill that they were voting in favor for drunk driving. This actions led by the Mothers Against Drunk Driving was a major cause in the act in subsequent passage through the House and the Senate (Cary).
However, findings showed that this increase of fatalities began to climb even before the drinking age was lowered to the age of 18. In looking at highway fatality graphs over the past 35 years one would see a steady decline in fatalities since Ronald Raegan adopted the Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act of 1984, " but [the decline] began in 1982, two years before the law changed. It has basically been flat or inching upward for the last decade" (Balko). These findings show that although there is some correlation with younger people being more reckless when it comes to drinking it is also shown that "it is likely that restricting the alcohol consumption of people in their late 20s (or even older) would also reduce alcohol related harms at least modestly" (Carpenter and Dobkin 2). This statistic goes to show that by restricting other similar age groups the same effects to drunk fatalities would decrease as well. Also by lowering the drinking age young adults would be less likely to go to the extremes that they do to be able to consume alcohol. "Normalizing alcohol consumption as something done responsibly in moderation will make drinking alcohol less of a taboo for young adults entering college and the workforce" (Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered from 21 to a Younger Age?). By restricting the drinking of young adults the government has only fueled the epidemic of young adults drinking wildly in an uncontrollable setting.
People need a wakeup call to reality that due to the rise in the drinking age, binge drinking and "pregaming" have become an epidemic. In an interview, John McCardell, head of Choose Responsibility organization and former president of Middlebury College, stated: "The law abridges the age of majority. It hasn't reduced consumption but has only made it riskier. Finally, it has disenfranchised parents and removed any opportunity for adults to educate or to model responsible behavior about alcohol." This interview allows people to see that lowering the drinking age is not just a fantasy for college students around the country, but is simply a safety precaution for many parents, authorities, and college campuses around the country. Especially for students entering college or in college, alcohol consumption has become a major component of the social society. It is extremely common that students entering college have been in at least a few social settings where underage drinking is present. As a college student, I see multiple cases of underage students "pre-gaming" and consuming massive amounts of alcohol. It is also extremely common in these cases of binge drinking to see students puking on a very regular basis as well as even being taken to the hospital. Personally, I believe this problem could be fixed by lowering the drinking age, because this would give parents a chance to show their children a normal amount of alcohol consumption as well as allowing their children to know their limits for consuming alcohol.
I do not argue the fact that President Reagan signed the Federal Uniform Drinking age Act of 1984 into law. However, to describe it as a "test run" is inconsistent with the language of the law. I also argue against the proponent's position that states were coerced into participation by withholding federal funds. The connection between the FUDA and granting of federal funds under the Taxing and Spending Clause, Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution, was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in South Dakota v. Dole. The U.S. Supreme Court considered the limitations the Constitution places on the authority of the United States Congress when it uses its authority to influence the individual states in areas of authority normally reserved to the states. It upheld the constitutionality of a federal statute that withheld federal funds from states whose legal drinking age did not conform to federal policy. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote that the Congress did not violate the Tenth Amendment because it merely exercised its right to control its spending. Rehnquist wrote that the Congress did not coerce the states because it only cut a small percentage of federal funding, thus applying pressure, but not irresistible pressure.
It is arguable that Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD) played a major role in this determination to change the law. Perhaps MADD would appreciate the undue credit given to them, but political pressure from social organizations is a fact within the United States legislature, and is not a point worth contending.
The point made by the proponent that traffic fatalities began to decline in 1982 and been "flat or inching upward for the last decade" is not supported by data reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). After an increase in motor vehicle crash fatalities in 2012, fatalities on U.S. roadways in 2013 resumed the decline that had started seven years prior. Despite the decline in fatalities, the Nation still lost 32,719 people in crashes on roadways during 2013, down from 33,782 in 2012. The number of people injured on the Nation"s roads decreased in 2013 as well, falling from 2.4 to 2.3 million injured people. Even if this downward trend began in 1982, there is no reason to suspect that the change in legal drinking limit in 1984 was inconsequential, or had the drinking age not been changed at all that the fatality statistics would have followed the same trend. It is impossible for one to propose the "what if" question, especially since among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants, almost half (49%) of those killed in 2013 were unrestrained.
The proponent conceded the point that some studies show a correlation between age of the alcohol consumer and reckless behavior. I concur with this point. The proponent also cited work by Carpenter and Dobkin that stated a likelihood of restricting alcohol consumption in older populations would also reduce harms to that age group. Again, I concur wit this point. Based on these two points made by the proponent, a logical counter argument to the primary proposition (lowering drinking age to 18) would be to further increase the drinking age to 25.
The proponent suggested that by lowering the drinking age younger drinkers would less likely to go to the extreme because alcohol consumption would be "normalized" and not carry the same taboos in society. This claim is unfounded, and contradicted, in research. For example, results from a U.S. survey indicate that compared with those who begin drinking at a later age, respondents who begin drinking in their teenage years are more likely during late adolescence and adulthood to experience alcohol-related unintentional injuries (e.g., motor vehicle crashes, falls, burns, and drownings) and to be involved in fights after drinking. Furthermore, early onset of regular alcohol consumption is a significant predictor of lifetime alcohol-related problems. Young adults are susceptible not only to alcohol-related health problems (i.e., deaths and injuries) but also to alcohol-related social problems. In fact, for any given level of drinking, young adults report more social problems than do middle-aged adults. These alcohol-related social problems include problems with family, friends, and at work; financial difficulties; legal problems, such as property damage, public disturbance, violence, or sexual assault; and other risk-taking behavior. The probability of young people suffering such social consequences increases with their level of drinking.
The proponent claims that "reality" is binge-drinking is not only an epidemic, but is due to the rise in legal drinking age. In 2013, 24.6 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month; 6.8 percent reported that they engaged in heavy drinking in the past month [at the time of the survey]. While I concede that binge-drinking is indeed an issue that needs attention, I reject the notion that increasing the legal drinking age has "disenfranchised parents" or removed the opportunity for adults to educate or model responsible behavior. Teaching responsible alcohol use does not have to include allowing the youth to imbibe the intoxicant. Additionally, on this same premise, I reject the notion that lowering the drinking age would amount to a "safety precaution". There is no reasonable, compelling argument that lowering the legal age of alcohol consumption would create a safer or healthier environment for college-age adults. Nor is the personal testimony by the proponent a compelling argument.
The only logical position to combat the abuse of alcohol as set forth by the proponent is not to lower the legal age, but to raise it.
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