ESTABLISHING THE DRINKING AGE AT 19 WILL KEEP ALCOHOL OUT OF HIGH SCHOOLS
The age old debate regarding the drinking age has once again appeared in the media over the last couple months. Many universities’ chancellors and presidents have recently signed the Amethyst Initiative, requesting a public debate on the drinking age.
In short, the universities feel the higher drinking age has failed to work and has instead created a dangerous environment that encourages binge drinking. Opponents to the initiative argue that high school drinking is down since the drinking age was changed to 21 in 1984 and that alcohol related fatalities, particularly on the road, among 18 to 20-year-olds have decreased.
When the legitimate pros and cons to both sides of this issue are weighed, a logical and feasible solution is to establish the drinking age at nineteen. Nineteen would preclude high school seniors from buying alcohol and thereby continue to restrict the availability of alcohol in high schools.
The vast majority of college freshmen choose to drink upon their arrival on campus regardless of the drinking age. Because underclassmen cannot legally drink, there is an underground, unregulated binge drinking movement that has been seen and noted by many education professionals across the country.
If the drinking age were set at nineteen, at some point during their first year away from home college freshmen could begin to drink openly and away from the pressure to drink to intoxication that is common in illicit drinking situations.
An 18-year-old is considered mature enough to make intelligent choices regarding elections and tobacco, and is permitted to join the military at great personal risk, so it seems absurd to say they are still too immature to drink responsibly.
Advertisements for alcohol products are everywhere. Given the consistent reinforcement of pro-alcohol messages, it is to be expected that young adults will want to drink. When they cannot drink openly until they are three years removed from their homes, opportunities to teach responsible drinking are missed completely and young adults arrive at college with no idea about tolerance levels or responsible drinking. If the drinking age were nineteen, seniors in high school could receive timely alcohol education courses similar to driver’s education offered shortly before students turn sixteen.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other organizations also argue that underage Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrests are down. This is largely a separate issue – law enforcement has done an admirable job cracking down on drunk drivers.
Proper alcohol education in high schools could further attenuate DUI’s and being able to drink openly lends itself to being able to drink responsibly.
It’s much easier to arrange a ride or make plans to stay somewhere when someone can be open about the fact that they are going to be drinking. Considering the fact that most underage people choose to drink regardless of the law, it does not make sense that allowing them to do so openly would in turn promote illegal behavior.
Those who make the selfish decision to put others at risk by driving drunk will, unfortunately, probably continue to do so regardless of the drinking age. Proper education and more crackdowns seem to be much more sensible ways of combating drunk driving.
While there are legitimate concerns on both sides of the drinking age debate, the age of nineteen seems to be a logical compromise. It still effectively keeps high school students from purchasing alcohol and would allow parents and high schools to offer timely drinking education classes and advice.
Being able to drink openly would encourage respect for the law and allow young people to openly arrange for rides or places to stay to avoid driving drunk.
And perhaps most reasonably, if someone is judged fit to go into combat and choose the next president of our country, I certainly hope they can handle having a beer.