Solution Proposal Final Paper Hamnes

Dangerous Underage Drinking

The drinking age of 21 has been set since the 1980's, however there are many arguments out there that suggest the drinking age of 21 isn't working. Initially it was raised to 21 to reduce highway fatalities, and although the number of fatal crashes involving a young driver dropped significantly, it's no secret that the drinking age hasn't stopped minors from drinking or getting their hands on alcohol. A survey of students at 56 colleges across the country just a couple years after the legislation passed found that "significantly more under-age students drank compared to those of legal age" (Christenson, 2014). This study concluded that the increase in purchase age appears to have been not only ineffective but actually counter-productive, at least in the short run. In this day and age the college atmospheres highly revolve around alcohol and parties, which has also lead to an increase in binge drinking, sexual assaults, alcohol poisoning and even deaths. Bemidji State University has already experienced more than one tragedy with minors related to drinking, both of which occured at unsuprovised college parties this year. It's no secret that there is a binge drinking problem at campuses across the U.S, but will lowering the age limit help overcome this dangerous issue?

In my opinion, I believe it will. As I discussed above, one of the main arguments at keeping the age at 21 is to reduce highway fatalities and drunk driving. Although it has shown a decrease of 61% in 1982 to 31% in 1995, this isn't entirely credited to raise in drinking age. According to Cary (2014), "the U.S. has thrown the book at drunken drivers". "All 50 states currently define a driver’s having a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as a crime; 42 states suspend drivers’ licenses on the first offense. Every state also now has some type of ignition interlock law, requiring devices to be installed in the vehicles of convicted drunken drivers that prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver breathes into the device and produces a breath-alcohol level above a preset limit." The decrease in drinking and driving problems are the result of many factors, not just the increase in drinking age. Including: education concerning drunk driving, designated driver programs, increased seat belt and air bag usage, safer automobiles, lower speed limits, free taxi services from drinking establishments, etc. According to Engs (2014) "Groups such as Italians, Greeks, Chinese and Jews, who have few drinking related problems, tend to share some common characteristics. Alcohol is neither seen as a poison or a magic potent, there is little or no social pressure to drink, irresponsible behavior is never tolerated, young people learn at home from their parents and from other adults how to handle alcohol in a responsible manner, there is societal consensus on what constitutes responsible drinking."

Another big argument against lowering the drinking age is that the person isn't done maturing until about the age of 21, thus drinking alcohol at a younger age will hinder development. Scientific studies have shown this to be not entirely true. The American Psychological Association (APA), says that "drawing a single line between adolescence and adulthood under the law is at odds with developmental science". They say adolescence usually begins at about age 10 and ends around 19, but really it depends; maturity is based on an individual's experiences. So it doesn't make sense to have 21 as the drinking age when, in reality many 19 year olds could be just as mature as someone in there early 20's.

One of the main reason's I believe the drinking age should be lowered, is the increasing rate of minors binge drinking across the U.S., espeically in college students. The current law is unenforceable and has caused increased personal, social, academic and physical problems related to heavy and irresponsible drinking among college age group. This is due to the fact that they aren't allowed to drink socially, this leads to an enormous amount of illegal drinking on campus, which in turn leads to drinking in unregulated and unmonitored settings, where problem drinking is all too easy. "A fraternity president can look the other way when someone funnels a bottle of vodka; a bartender will not — or if he does, he won’t be in business very long" (Stienberg, 2015).

If young adults were allowed to drink in controlled environments such as restaurants, taverns, pubs and official school and university functions, these issues wouldn't arrise. In these situations responsible drinking could be taught through role modeling and educational programs. She states that the majority of college students under 21 still drink and in an irresponsible manner. "This is because drinking by these youth is seen as an enticing "forbidden fruit," a "badge of rebellion against authority" and a symbol of "adulthood." Eng (2014) states that as a nation we have tried prohibition legislation twice in the past for controlling irresponsible drinking problems. These laws were finally repealed because they were unenforceable and because the backlash towards them caused other social problems and now we're repeating history and making the same mistakes now.

Moreover, if the drinking age was lowered, minors wouldn't have to drink secretly which would lead to a decrease in binge drinking, sexual assaults and dangerous drinking in private. Like basements, fraternity houses and locked dorm rooms, where kids go to hide from the law and from adults, including parents, who might teach them some moderation. Specifically at campuses, being able to drink in public places would not only provide supervision and safety to students who choose to drink, it also serves as an opportunity for adults to be role models by influencing students with safe drinking habits.

Christenson, Jen. 2014. CNN. "Sciences Limit when it Comes to the Drinking Age".

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