Minimum drinking age saves young lives

  • The 21-year-old drinking age is saving lives on the highway
  • Some groups think the information collected is not valid and the drinking age needs to be lowered to 18

Although many college students may not like it, the current drinking age saves lives on the highway.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 21-year age minimum has prevented 4,441 deaths over the last five years.

Ellen Martin, a NHTSA spokeswoman, explained how this seemingly speculative information was gathered.

"We have the largest database of fatal crashes in the U.S.," Martin said. "We know how many teens are impaired. The data we have points to project teen lives that were saved as a consequence of higher drinking age."

Despite data collected, there are still groups that think the minimum drinking age should be lowered to 18.

Choose Responsibility is an organization that seeks to expand alcohol education in America so adults that fall between 18 and 20 can make mature decisions about how the use alcohol.

Nick DeSantis, a staff assistant at Choose Responsibility, explained the organization's mission.

"As far as we're concerned, our proposal goes far beyond getting an 18 minimum," DeSantis said. "The problem with the 21 law is that it has created a culture of dangerous behavior both on- and off-campuses. This law has forced students to engage in dangerous behavior."

DeSantis said the goal of Choose Responsibility is not to have that age demographic hide their drinking in the shadows, but instead to step out.

"We want to be able to draw that behavior in a more public environment," DeSantis. "Our ultimate goal is to reach out to other realms of responsibility outside higher education. We want to reach to health care professionals and law enforcement."

DeSantis said he believes parents also are playing a large part in underage drinking habits.

"Another part the current laws tend to marginalize are parents from taking a proactive role from educating young adults about alcohol," DeSantis said. "Parents either tell their kids to just say no to alcohol or to just drink responsibly."

DeSantis said that neither of these options is satisfactory.

"I think that messages of prohibition clearly aren't working if it makes them stay in the shadows," he said. "The other option has parents encouraging their children to break the law."

DeSantis also said the numbers proving the minimum drinking age is working are not satisfactory.

"The trouble with alcohol stats is that they are not as clear cut as some of our critics seem to suggest," DeSantis said. "For example, stricter DUI laws and sobriety check points make it difficult to make an unqualified claim of the success of 21."

But Martin said she finds these claims to be completely fallacious.

"The premise of that argument is false," Martin said. "We absolutely know more people would die if we lowered the drinking age."

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is an organization dedicated to keeping drunk drivers off the road. Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD, explained in a press release how the age 21 minimum is helping save lives.

"While 21 started out helping to combat drunk driving, we now have extensive research on the impact of this law on underage drinking prevention as well," said Dean-Mooney. "MADD is continuing to support this law by advocating for more enforcement and limiting social and retail access to alcohol by those under 21."

Tim Lally, a junior in the College of Communication, said he sees what Choose Responsibility is trying to do.

"I do see this happening around campus and home," Lally said. "I especially see it with kids who have never drank before. They come to school, don't know how to handle alcohol and they end up in the hospital. It's very dangerous."

While Lally said he thinks there is definitely a secretive culture of binge drinking happening around the country, he does not think the drinking age should be lowered.

"How would that help?" Lally said. "I feel uncomfortable being on the road knowing that people 'of age' are legally driving with a few beers in their system. I don't need any more of them."