In the United States and most countries around the world, the legal age of majority is 18. Despite the fact that people are considered adults at this age, they are unable to do certain things, such as being able to legally drink. With the legal drinking age being 21, there are 3 years that a person is an adult where they have certain activities restricted, which may be considered a restriction of a right. There are some definite advantages and disadvantages to lowering the drinking age to 18.
The Pros of Lowering the Drinking Age to 18
Many states already allow underage drinking to occur. In 29 states in the US, drinking is allowed at the age of 18 as long as it occurs on private premises and is done with parental permission. 50% of the US allows for underage alcohol consumption if it is done for some religious purpose. Another 11 states allow underage drinking if it is for educational purposes.
Traffic accidents and fatalities due to drinking come from new drinkers of any age. In 2009 data, the age group with the highest percentage of drivers with an illegal blood alcohol content level was the 21-24 age demographic. Although there would be increases in the 18-20 age demographic in these statistics, these would be offset by reductions in the older age groups.
There is no evidence that a 21 drinking age reduces accidents. When the legal age of drinking was set in 1984 on a national basis, the rate of traffic fatalities and accidents decreased less in the United States than it did in countries that currently have lower drinking ages.
The Cons of Lowering the Drinking Age to 18
It could affect the final growth stages of people. The human body continue to develop through the rest of the teenage years, especially from a mental standpoint. Drinking affects the frontal lobe of the brain and lowering the drinking age could put the 18-20 age demographic at risk for chronic mental health problems.
Drinking isn’t the only right that comes at 21 in the US. There are a number of things that someone at the age of 18 can’t do, but someone at the age of 21 can do. Gambling in a casino, adopting a child, or even purchasing a handgun can’t be done in most areas at the age of 18. Someone can’t rent a car until the age of 25. You can’t run to be the President of the United States until age 35.
It would increase the rates of binge drinking and intoxication. Using other countries that have lower drinking ages as a standard, allowing alcohol consumption at the age of 18 would create higher rates of binge drinking and intoxication in the 18-20 age demographic. Kids younger than 13 also begin drinking at higher rates in areas where the drinking age is lower.
Should the drinking age be lowered below 21? Many states have had a lower drinking age at some point in their history. It has happened in the past in the US and other 21 only nations, so the precedent has been set. There are some advantages and disadvantages to the idea of doing this, however, so the subject must be completely evaluated before action is taken.