Minimum Legal Drinking Age Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

America, when a person reaches the age of 18 he can die for his country, obtain credit, get married, get divorced and be charged in criminal court. By all appearances the age of 18 sets the stage for adulthood and all that it entails. In a curious contradiction to that, however, America insists on maintaining a drinking age of 21 years old. While 18-year-olds can do all of the above except drink, individual states, under the threat of reduced federal interstate funding, keep the legal age of drinking at 21 years of age.

The minimum legal drinking age should be lowered to 18 because it (age) is not a contributing factor in the number of accidents/deaths that involve young people between 18 and 21 in the United States.

Around the nation states wrestle with the topic of legal drinking age. When the federal government began refusing to fund highways in any state that allowed drinking under the age of 21, all states crumbled and today there is not a state in the union with a minimum age to drink being less than that. States are working hard to cut down on fatalities that ate related to or caused by drunk drivers (Scherer, 2002).

Faced with one of the nation's highest levels of alcohol fatalities, New Mexico this January started operation Road Predator, designed to crack down on bars that serve people well over the limit and alert local police to habitual offenders in their area.

Louisiana, where half the road fatalities are alcohol related, is asking the clergy to spread the word: Don't drink and drive.

And the Washington, D.C., area is expanding its SoberRide program, to offer free taxi rides until 4 a.m. each night (Scherer, 2002)."

These are some of the ways states and communities are hoping to cut down on the holiday alcohol fatality rate. They will have added more sobriety checks and sent more letters to employers reminding them that some holiday parties can be lethal if free rides aren't provided for workers (Scherer, 2002). Even the White House has stepped in, setting a goal of reducing drunken-driving fatalities by 35% by 2005(Scherer, 2002).

This is in response to a rising rate of alcohol fatalities across the nation. While experts agree there must be some strong legislation about drinking and driving they often disagree on the age at which that danger becomes most heightened. Studies have shown that the most common cause of traffic deaths in young teens is alcohol (Scherer, 2002). Teens that drink and drive comprise the bulk of traffic fatality statistics. The numbers are not so clear cut when it comes to young adults.

There is evidence that young adults do get into fatal traffic accidents due to drinking and driving however (Boylan, 2002).

College students who consider excessive drinking a "rite of passage" were served a sobering notice Tuesday by a new study reporting that alcohol-related accidents kill 1,400 of their peers each year (Boylan, 2002).

Alcohol consumption by college students contributes to 600,000 assaults, 500,000 injuries and 70,000 sexual assaults every year, according to the study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's Task Force on College Drinking (Boylan, 2002).

In addition, more than 2 million students acknowledged in 2001 having driven a car with alcohol in their systems, and 400,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 reported having unprotected sex while under the influence (Boylan, 2002)."

While these are startling facts they do not add up to just cause for keeping the drinking age at 21(Boylan, 2002).

Some experts believe if a cross section of the adult population above the age of 21 were to be questioned about their drinking and driving habits the same statistical results would be obtained.

The Coors brewing company has been fighting an uphill battle to lower the national age of consent for drinking to 18 in recent years (Idea, 2004).

In a debate Wednesday with his Republican primary opponent, Coors - who heads the giant Coors Brewing Co (Idea, 2004). - reiterated a 1997 statement on the drinking age, saying that it might help people learn to drink responsibly.

Coors said after the debate Wednesday that he has always promoted responsible drinking. "Beer and wine and distilled spirits are legal products that provide a great deal of pleasure," he said (Idea, 2004). "

Opponents of lowering the drinking age in America point to statistics that create concern.

Alcohol use during adolescence and young adulthood remains a prominent public health problem in the United States. National survey results indicate that 28.6% of 12th graders and 40.1% of college students reported binge drinking (i.e., consuming five or more drinks in a row) during the 2-week period preceding the survey (Windle, 2003). Alcohol use among adolescents and college students is also associated with a broad array of risk behaviors, including tobacco use and drinking and driving. In addition, studies on college campuses have shown that students who do not drink nevertheless experience adverse secondhand effects of drinking (Windle, 2003), including victimization (e.g., verbal or physical threats and actions) and personal intrusion (e.g., disruption of sleep or study habits) by those who have been drinking. Another disturbing trend in youth drinking is the initiation of alcohol use at younger ages. Between 1987 and 1996, surveys have shown that the average age of initiation to alcohol use decreased by more than 1.5 years, from 17.8 years in 1987 to 15.9 years in 1996(Windle, 2003). In 1999, more than 32% of young people reported beginning to drink before age 13. Earlier initiation of alcohol use (prior to age 15) has been associated with increased risk for alcohol-related problems later in life (Windle, 2003)."

No one can deny the use of alcohol at young ages but the traffic fatality is strongest before the age of 18 according to statistical research.

Statistically, it is not the 18 to 21-year-olds who have the most fatal traffic accidents while under the influence of alcohol. It is the 21- to 24-year-olds (Adults, 2003). "Young adults aged 15-24 years old are more likely to die in alcohol-related vehicle accidents than any other demographic group (Adults, 2003). Motor vehicle accidents are responsible for one-third of the annual deaths for 15- to 24-year-olds, but that rate rises when alcohol is involved. Young adults aged 21-24 have the highest death rate, even though the death rate has declined, from 51.6% in 1982 to 37.3% in 1994(Adults, 2003). Preventive measures will continue to target young adults in an effort to reduce their mortality by alcohol-related vehicle crashes (Adults, 2003)."

Approximately one third of deaths among persons aged 15-24 years result from motor-vehicle crashes (Adults, 2003). Although alcohol use increases the risk for motor-vehicle crashes for all drivers, for young drivers the risk begins to increase at very low blood alcohol concentrations. In addition, in young persons who drive after drinking, the relative risk for crash involvement is greater at all BACs than for older drivers who drink (Adults, 2003). This report is based on data from the Fatal Accident Reporting System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and describes trends in alcohol involvement among drivers in fatal traffic crashes and trends in all alcohol-related traffic fatalities (ARTFs) in the United States from 1982 through 1994 among youth and young adults (Adults, 2003).

NHTSA refers to drivers with a BAC >0.01 g/dL in a police-reported traffic crash as alcohol-involved; drivers with a BAC >0.10 g/dL (the legal level of intoxication in most states) are considered intoxicated. NHTSA considers a fatal traffic crash to be alcohol-related if either a driver or nonoccupant (e.g., pedestrian) had a BAC >0.01 g/dL in a police-reported traffic crash. Because BACs are not available for all persons involved in fatal crashes, NHTSA estimates the number of ARTFs based on a discriminant analysis of information from all cases for which driver or nonoccupant BAC data are available (4). Statistics about drivers refer only to drivers involved in fatal crashes; the driver may or may not have been killed in the crash. Data are presented for youth (persons aged 15-17 years and 18-20 years), young adults (21-24 years), and other adults (>25 years) (Adults, 2003).

During 1982-1994, the estimated percentage and total number of alcohol-involved drivers in fatal crashes (i.e., crashes in which at least one person was killed) decreased for all four age groups (Table 1). Decreases in the proportion of alcohol-involved drivers were greater for persons aged 15-17 years (56%) and 18-20 years (44%) than for persons aged 21-24 years (28%) and >25 years (30%)(Adults, 2003)." (Saffer, 2002)

Part of what may be contributing to the insistence by the federal government to maintain a legal drinking age of 21 is the fact that statistically 1- to 21-year-olds are often lumped into study data with higher risk age groups. This then gives the appearance of 18- to 21-year-olds being at as high or higher risk than other age groups when it comes to drinking and driving. It is only when…

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