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by Peter Moskos

September 17, 2008

The Legal Drinking Age Surprise

The New York Times came out today with an editorial against lowering the drinking age. That surprised me, especially from a paper that says we're not winning the war on drugs.

I started drinking when I was 15. Most people do. Seems to me that the legal drinking age for beer and wine should be 16 or 18. Since kids do it anyway, better to regulate and teach kids to drink responsibly. Instead you get kids chugging cheap vodka and being stupid.

The drinking age was raised to 21 with the goal of reducing traffic deaths (so if you don't have a car, why can't you drink?). I always assumed that raising the drinking age accomplished that. Turns out it really didn't.

Here's the surprise:
Since the drinking age was set at 21 in 1984, research shows alcohol-related traffic deaths among those 18 to 20 years old have declined by 11 percent, even after accounting for safer vehicles.
An 11 percent reduction in traffic deaths over 34 years?! Are you f**king kidding me? A higher drinking age criminalized a whole age group, prevented voters and soldiers from having a legal beer, encouraged stupid drinking, and reintroduced the failures of Prohibition back into America. 11%?! You're telling me you couldn't think of a better way to get a minor reduction in drunk driving among a small age group? If so, maybe you need put on your thinking cap and think just a little bit harder.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did the NYT ever stop to consider that this reduction is probably also related to the following factors: 1.) Better, safer design of vehicles; 2.) Faster EMS responses, including Advanced Life Support units in the field; 3.) Improved trauma services at hospitals. There are other factors, but I doubt the current drinking age is among them. The higher age just piles more bullshit work onto the police, especially near college campuses. Treat young ADULTS like real ADULTs and they might surprise us!