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, 2005). At no time is any state obligated to comply with the federal guidelines for federal highway fund eligibility or to give up any sovereign rights established by the Tenth Constitutional Amendment. Furthermore, there is no issue of "withholding" or "withdrawing" any federal funds from states that choose not to comply with federal guidelines pertaining to the drinking age eligibility. Those monies are supplemental to any other federal funds and would not be offered except as an incentive to follow federal recommendations about the minimum drinking age. States do not have to comply if they prefer to lower the drinking age.
Reason # 3 -- Adults Younger than 21 are not as Responsible as Adults over 21
At the age of 18 or 19, most young people lack the fundamental abilities to make good decisions, especially about things such as taking risks and considering all of the consequences of their choices and actions. Young people regularly do things in their youth that adults know not to do and that they usually regard as foolish when they look back on their lives later. Young people are also much more susceptible to the influence of peer pressure and to impulses such as the need to display bravado and machismo (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009). Typically, 18-year-olds are much more likely to get into fights and that relates to driving behaviors equally. Whereas older people learn not to antagonize one another or get into situations and circumstances where they end up having something to prove, people younger than 21 often drive competitively and race one another on the streets if they perceive a "challenge" from another driver. Especially when combined with alcohol consumption, those tendencies can prove deadly.
The fact that older teenagers and young adults are physiologically mature belies the fact that they are psychologically, emotionally, and intellectually immature compared to adults in their mid to late twenties (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009). In fact, the regions of the human brain responsible for higher reasoning, critical judgment, and (especially) contemplation of the future consequences of actions and decisions are usually not fully developed until the mid twenties (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009). This is an extremely important consideration in both driving and drinking behaviors even in isolation.
An 18-year-old is much more likely than an older person to take unnecessary risks while driving, to overestimate his or her abilities to "multitask" while driving, and to make bad decisions behind the wheel in connection with risk assessment and safety, even without the introduction of alcohol into the equation. Similarly, an 18-year-old is much more likely to overestimate his or her ability to consume liquor without becoming excessively intoxicated and to recognize the degree to which alcohol impairs physical and cognitive abilities. In combination, this makes younger drivers who drink and then drive under the influence of alcohol much more dangerous than older drivers who drink and then drive under the influence.
Counterargument # 3 -- Other Dangerous Responsibilities do not Require Being 21
The counterargument is that the drinking age should be lowered to 18, largely on the basis of the incongruence of allowing 18-year-olds to serve in the military and die in defense of their country while prohibiting them from drinking. That argument is based on the assumption that if 18-year-olds are sufficiently mature to serve in the military and to carry and operate deadly weapon systems, they should be mature enough to drink responsibly. In fact, in some states, police officers do not even have to be 21 to be hired in law enforcement (Schmalleger, 2009). It seems ridiculous that a 20-year-old who is a sworn police officer with governmental authority and arrest powers is not capable of being trusted enough to drink a beer. Finally, the minimum drinking age is already widely ignored precisely because by the age of 18, most people have already tried alcohol and many already establish adult drinking behaviors without any problems.
Rebuttal # 3 -- The Minimum Drinking Age is not Addressed at those Individuals who Are the Most responsible in their Age Group
It is absolutely true that individuals younger than 21 years of age who join the armed forces and who qualify to serve in positions of public trust (such as police officers) are probably capable of making mature enough decisions about drinking and driving to e-trusted to consume alcohol before they turn 21. However, the problem with lowering the drinking age is that it does not only apply to those relatively rare 20 or 19 or 18-year-olds who happen to be mature enough to drink responsibly and to avoid ever drinking and driving. It would also lower the drinking age for all of the other teenagers who are not that mature and who would be much more likely to drink and drive and kill themselves and others.
Conclusion -- Maintaining the Drinking Age at 21 is the Only Practical Solution
In theory, the problem with teenagers drinking and driving is not necessarily an issue of the minimum drinking age, since teenagers who drink but who do not also drive do not present the same problem. It is true that teenagers who do not drive are affected by the minimum drinking age that is (admittedly) predicated almost entirely on the connection between teenage drinking and teenage driving. However, it is justifiable simply because there are no other methods of addressing the problem, as well as by virtue of the risk-to-benefit considerations and the nature of the two competing interests.
Specifically, drunk driving is a social problem precisely because people (even adults) cannot always be counted upon to comply with laws prohibiting driving under the influence of alcohol; and granted, teenagers may also choose to violate both laws simultaneously. However, prohibiting the sale or serving of alcohol to teenagers undoubtedly reduces the incidence of teenagers driving under the influence in comparison to what the situation would be if they were legally entitled to drink alcohol. While it cannot guarantee that teenagers will not drink alcohol and drive, maintaining the minimum age of 21 for drinking is the most effective and practical method of mitigating the risk and ensuring that it does not occur much more often than it would otherwise. Finally, the fact that many teenagers do begin drinking before they turn 21 does not mean that the minimum age requirement serves no valid purpose. It is a very effective deterrent to the sale of alcohol to younger people and the consequences of lowering the drinking age would be millions of teenagers potentially driving drunk instead of perhaps thousands "only."
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