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As a high school teacher who frequently works with our student assistance counselor (also known as the substance abuse counselor), I am frequently reminded of the effects of the abuse of alcohol among our students.

When given the opportunity to talk about their use of alcohol, we often hear the same sorts of stories from these young men (and rarely women) that adults tell. Starting young, drinking from social pressure, drinking because of media pressure, drinking because it's illegal and wanting to seem tough, etc. During the past decade, very little surprises me when it comes to alcohol abuse among teenagers.

Judging from my past interviews, students wanting to seem older and more mature will often abuse drinking (and smoking for that matter) for two main reasons.

First, they perceive the action as being more adult-like. They want to be treated like adults, so they emulate the adults around them. However, since underage drinking is illegal, very often they do this in secret, where problems may arise. As always, making something unobtainable only makes some of us crave it all the more. Often these students can recognize that they have a problem and rarely drink to the point where they become addicted.

Second, they cannot control themselves. This is harder to explain, but basically, some people have addictive personalities that once they discover something is pleasurable, they have a very difficult time resisting it. These students generally refuse to accept that they have a problem (and since a few have no idea what addiction really means it can be a challenge just getting them on the same page) and getting them help takes a great deal of work from the student's support network.

In response to pushing the drinking age to 21, many teenagers see drinking as one of their first steps into adulthood. And many of them, since they wish to be adults, will take that first drink as soon as possible. The first drink of alcohol, in some cases, has become ritualized into something along the lines of losing one's virginity or getting one's first car.

A few years ago, NIH released a study indicating that alcohol abuse among adults was on the rise, particularly among minorities. The widespread use and abuse of alcohol among children has also been noted in many different studies. Statistics generally show that by the time a child graduates high school, there is around a 75% chance that he or she will have tried alcohol and around a 33% chance that he or she will have gotten drunk.

Is this a problem that only Americans experience? Of course not. Countries such as Mexico, which has a legal drinking age of 18, are more than willing hosts for American teenagers on spring break looking to drink legally. This does not mean that there aren't alcohol abusers in Mexico, which there are. Germany, Ireland, and Russia are all renowned for their alcohol, and the stereotype of the drunkard is common in all three cultures.

Other countries have widely differing attitudes toward their legal drinking ages. In some countries it is strictly forbidden altogether. However, in more than a few places (such as the country of Georgia) children are legally allowed to drink (but in few places may they buy alcohol).

In the United States, the legal drinking age has undergone many changes. It is, according to the Constitution, something to be decided upon by the states. However, in the 1980s, the federal government has used the power of the purse to pull all the states into line into enacting a legal drinking age of 21. Prior to this, the states had generally set drinking laws to somewhere around 19 years of age.

The federal mandate was done with the idea of lowering the death rate from drunk driving, which has gone down since then. The problem is that it has been difficult to measure the effect of lowering the drinking age since two other effects occurred around the same time. First, there was a massive media campaign to raise awareness of the problem. This campaign still exists today in the form of "Friends don't let friends drive drunk" messages that are commonplace. Second, the penalties for DWI have become much more severe and much more enforced (especially since money in fines goes directly to the community).

So, if the legal drinking age has no demonstrable meaningful effect on traffic fatalities, why does it continue? Many people are questioning the soundness of this policy.

Recently, many colleges and universities have been asked to wage wars of prohibition on their campuses. Some have been saying no. MADD, as might be expected, is on the warpath about this.

Other organizations, such as the Underage Drinkers Against Drunk Driving take the logical stand that it's not alcohol use that is the problem, it's alcohol abuse regardless of age. An example of their stand against typical Texas Republican Kevin Brady's do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do hypocrisy is at the top of their page:

Now that the school year is getting ready to begin again (or it already has in other parts of the country), teenagers will be returning to school. They will be coming back to their friends, some of whom might have taken the opportunity this summer to enjoy their first beer with their other friends or family. Have you spoken with your children about the responsible use of alcohol? If not, when will you?

Originally posted to banjolele on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:25 AM PDT.

Poll

Legal Drinking Age?

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9%15 votes
69%110 votes
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| 159 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is a tip jar (34+ / 0-)

    Not a tipsy jar.

    But don't forget that most men without property would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor. (1776)

    by banjolele on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:26:21 AM PDT

    •  If at 18 (12+ / 0-)

      you are old enough to be drafted and die for your country, you DAMN WELL should have the right to have a drink legally.

      "America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way around. Human rights invented America." -Jimmy Carter

      by Bulldawg on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:49:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It goes hand in hand with driving age, no? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      EthrDemon

      Preferally, I would like to see something where the legal drinking age was lower than the age to get a DL.

      The hope it that people would get over the novelty of being able to drink and learn to control themselves before they learn to drive.

      But really the laws have nothing to do with it.  As long as we live in a puritan society that won't even let children taste it, it will always have the allure of the forbidden.

      I always offer to let my 8 and 5 year olds taste the beer I am drinking.  Usually they are not interested.  My plan is that by the time they are old enough, they will appreciate a good beer and won't like the cheap crap that usually gets passed around at parties!

  •  Good so they can learn that drinking makes you... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RonV, Catte Nappe, cerulean, banjolele

    FAT!  The sooner they learn that lesson the better!

    "Invest In America, Instead of Iraq. Vote Democratic"

    by manumit on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:32:04 AM PDT

  •  When I was 0-25 I thought (5+ / 0-)

    18 was a good age.

    Now that I'm 50 the last thing in the world I want is a drunken kid stumbling around breaking things.

    Does that happen to everyone when they hit 30?

    •  No (9+ / 0-)

      Having spent a good deal of my life around people from the ages of 18-22, it seems to be that there's little difference between 18 and 21 in terms of drinking behavior.  The problem is something other than age, IMHO.

      Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

      by Linnaeus on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:38:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There Need to Be Consistent Societal Expectations (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Linnaeus, lemming22, Anjana, scotths, washunate

        I don't think that the numeral matters all that much, there needs to be a consistent expectation of responsible behaviour, and when you have one age for driving, another for serving in the military and voting, another for marriage, another for drinking, another for contractual obligations... things can get fuzzy.

        I was bartending in NYS back when they raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 21, and it was very strange when midnight wolled around; the "kid" responsibly drinking minutes before was no longer legal; and the @$$#0le next to him was still an @$$#0le.

        "You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists." -Abbie Hoffman

        by Uthaclena on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:55:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I agree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RonV, Anjana

      But since I work with 18-year-old men and women, I can understand it. I can understand their thinking that if they're old enough to be driving tanks and firing automatic rifles, why shouldn't they be allowed to drink (when they're not doing either of the above, of course). I'm torn.

      But don't forget that most men without property would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor. (1776)

      by banjolele on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:39:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What does firing a weapon (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        happy camper

        have to do with ingesting a mood altering chemical.

        How are the two related.

        What in the hell does one have to do with the other?

        No one has ever been able to explain that to me.

        Because the person is old enough to make a choice?  Is that the key?

        Seems to me too many youngsters are making the choice on EITHER ONE and ending up dead.

        Maybe the reason we allow men and women to enlist so young is because we have to get them in before they wise up.  If it weren't for the stupidity of youth no one would ever join the service unless it were for an actual good reason.

        •  I Think I Know This One (11+ / 0-)

          What does firing a weapon have to do with ingesting a mood altering chemical?

          They're both things Dubya plans on doing his first day out of office?

          MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

          by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:49:29 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  It's all about choices (9+ / 0-)

          Either an 18 year old is an adult or she is not. Arbitrary decisions as to whether an adult can or cannot do what she likes with her body are best left to Republicans on issues such as abortion.

          Either you believe an 18 year old is an adult or you do not. If an 18 year old is not an adult, then she should be legally protected as a child is.

          From my perspective, the blurring of childhood and adulthood is what causes many problems in the first place.

          But don't forget that most men without property would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor. (1776)

          by banjolele on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:52:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  In that case ... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            banjolele

            He and she should be protected for another year or two.

            I know they would hate it.

            So would I have when I was that age.

            But I love our youth enough to be the focus of their hatred if that's what is necessary to give them time to grow.

            Their skulls don't even stop growing for another 5 years or so for chrissake.

            •  That argument I can believe (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              EthrDemon, Anjana, Sarahsaturn

              The not-a-child-yet-not-an-adult status of 18 year olds is something that bothered me when I was 18 and it bothers me now. In many other nations young children are legally allowed to drink under the supervision of adults. Here for an adult to introduce a child to the responsible use of alcohol would be considered abuse by some.

              But don't forget that most men without property would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor. (1776)

              by banjolele on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:00:16 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Research has shown (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mia Dolan

               that is isn't just the skull. The brain does not physically mature until about the age of 23 or so. And wouldn't you know it's the part used for judgement and higher reasoning that lags behind?

              What's the difference between Vietnam and Iraq? Bush knew how to get out of Vietnam.

              by happy camper on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:13:03 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Does this mean -- (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              EthrDemon

              -- that people with extreme developmental disabilities (e.g. Downs' syndrome) should never be allowed to drink?  After all, some people never achieve adult levels of emotional maturity.

              Alcohol, consumed responsibly, has no effect on brain development.  The current legal drinking age all but guarantees that young people will not learn how to drink responsibly, because they will learn to drink among peers rather than among family members.  I have a hard time believing this is even remotely productive.

              My objection to the current drinking age has to do with social activities.  A lot of social clubs and organizations meet in bars -- effectively prohibiting anyone who is less than 21 from joining.

    •  I will be (0+ / 0-)

      30 on Dec 3rd so I will let you know. I see more problems at the local pub with older alchies than kids - kids get out of control but it is the older ones that sneak off and drive

      **Disclosure: Recovering Edwards Supporter. Switched to Obama after his drop but recent events still hurt***

      by Jeremylreed on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:40:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  ah but there will still be drunken kids stumbling (11+ / 0-)

      but the difference is now that kid is doing something illegal.

      I teach at a big public univ. The 21 law is a joke.

      In the 60s we made a decision as a society that the age of majority should be 18, not 21. To be consistent, we should either (1) go back to the 21 rule, bring back in loco parentis, etc or (2) make the drinking age 18.

      •  I'm the mom of two young adults (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Drew J Jones

        ... one who "made good choices" as a teen and one who definitely didn't. I totally agree with you, the 21 law is a joke. A kid can always find a way to buy liquor. Someone knows someone ... or you can hang out by the Quik Shop and wait for a sympathetic stranger who got their booze the same way when they were underage.

        •  Erm (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Robin in PA

          or you can hang out by the Quik Shop and wait for a sympathetic stranger who got their booze the same way when they were underage.

          Mom, is that you?

          /snark

          "Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thought on the unthinking." - John Maynard Keynes

          by Drew J Jones on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:14:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Well, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Anjana, BoiseBlue

      I submit there are plenty of drunks stumbling around and breaking things who are well beyond 21.

      "Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thought on the unthinking." - John Maynard Keynes

      by Drew J Jones on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:11:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The last thing I want (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lemming22

      is a drunken 50 year old wandering around.  Maybe the real answer with drugs is to make it illegal for people over 30!

  •  18 is a decent age (8+ / 0-)

    21 is so damn arbitrary.

    One failure after another and the final result is anarchy. -edscan

    by BoiseBlue on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:33:17 AM PDT

    •  19.75 is a decent age (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Drew J Jones, Spoc42, peteri2, Anjana, Norbrook

      18 is so damn arbitrary.

      ;-)

    •  Nothing arbitrary about 18. (11+ / 0-)
      At 17 I graduated high school. At 17 I joined the US Navy. At 21 I was finally allowed to raise a toast to the country that I'd been allowed to die for over the previous four years.

      "Abstinence education" doesn't work, whether it's sex or alcohol. Here in Germany kids at 14 can buy beer and wine (booze is 18). They may occasionally get stupid but they do so at a younger age and learn more quickly. They don't have drivers' licenses yet (though riding a bike drunk will also get you a DUI here) and by the time they get one, they've already learned to drink responsibly.

      •  Good point. (0+ / 0-)

        About people learning to drink before they learn to drive. Modeling appropriate behavior of any kind is important.

        "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

        by RonV on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:02:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  No fully correct or incorrect way. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Anjana

        I'm not a believer that drinking moderately at a young age necessarily leads one to drink responsibly.  The Germans are pretty well-behaved, but the Brits, who are also allowed to drink young, have serious issues with alcohol, according to the studies I've read and based upon my own experiences there.

        Eighteen is the right age to buy, in my opinion.  If you're old enough to drive a tank, you're old enough to get tanked.  If parents want to let the kids drink at home at a younger age, and teach them properly, that's fine by me.  That's what my folks did.  I was allowed to drink as early as 15, but I had to do so at home.

        But none of these solutions are a magic bullet.

        "Words ought to be a little wild for they are the assault of thought on the unthinking." - John Maynard Keynes

        by Drew J Jones on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:04:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The problem (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Drew J Jones, lemming22, Anjana

          is not one of children drinking but of parental supervision. In, say, France, Italy and Spain, very young children will be allowed to have some highly diluted wine with the family meal.

          There is a very good historic reason for this as the alcohol in the wine would sterilize the water. In fact, children not drinking alcohol, especially beer in the more northern countries, is a comparatively new idea for that very reason. In addition, beer was not solely an alcoholic drink but an important source of nutrition.

          When today you have parents who do not supervise children and teach them responsible drinking, you get bad behavior and binge drinking. Early prohibition is the problem, not the solution.

          Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?

          by Lib Dem FoP on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:15:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  And at eighteen you could (0+ / 0-)

        Run for President!  And collect Social Security!  And FINALLY drive a car.

        Yup.  There's literally NOTHING in this country you can't do until the second you turn eighteen except drinking, and it's all so arbitrary.

        MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

        by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:35:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  There should be a study (0+ / 0-)

    This probably has been done already, but it would be interesting to do some kind of comparative study between the United States and countries with lower drinking ages.  My own speculation would be that there's little difference between 18 and 21.

    I grew up near the Canadian border, and me and my friends used to cross it over into Ontario after we turned 19 so that we could drink legally (making sure that someone could drive, of course).  I spent a month in Manitoba this summer, where the legal drinking age is 18.  So we wouldn't even have to go far to find research populations.

    Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

    by Linnaeus on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:35:10 AM PDT

  •  It is an (5+ / 0-)

    Old analogy but I think fitting. You can join the Military at age 18 basically saying you accept the risk of being killed for a job signing an - standard 8 year (4 active and 4 inactive) contract at 18 you can weigh that decision but not drink it is silly. An adult is an Adult we have decided 18 is the beginning of adulthood I see no reason to put an arbitrary number like 21 on drinking.

    Smoking and Tobacco are much more addictive and harmful than drinking and we let kids buy that it makes no sense.

    **Disclosure: Recovering Edwards Supporter. Switched to Obama after his drop but recent events still hurt***

    by Jeremylreed on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:39:03 AM PDT

  •  Well That's Not Entirely True (3+ / 0-)

    So, if the legal drinking age has no demonstrable meaningful effect on traffic fatalities, why does it continue? Many people are questioning the soundness of this policy.

    In the 60s and 70s Michigan, Wisconsin, and the Canadian province of Ontario all LOWERED their drinking ages.  A 1974 study by Williams et. al compared the overal vehicle crash-per-night rates in those three to Indiana, Minnesota, and Illinois (considered Demographically similar to ON, MI, and WI) which did NOT lower their drinking ages.  In every jurisdiction crashes-per-night were found to increase after the drinking age was lowered while no change was experienced in the "control" Jurisdictions.

    That same year a study by Douglas et. al compared Michigan and Maine (another state which had lowered its drinking age) to the control states of PA, LA, and TX which had not lowered their drinking age.  They specifically looked at alcohol-related crashes among people under twenty-one.  Again alcohol-related crashes INCREASED among that age group in MI & ME after lowering the drinking age, and remained unchanged in PA, LA, and TX.

    While neither of these studies specifically looked at fatalities, I think it's fair to stipulate that an overall increase in accidents involving alcohol will yield a higher number of fatalities from such accidents.  "Legal" drinkers are MORE likely to drive drunk than "illegal" drinkers, at least that's what these two unrelated studies demonstrated.

    MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

    by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:40:16 AM PDT

    •  there are too many factors involved (5+ / 0-)

      But if the issue is drunk driving then the answer is stricter enforcement of that.

      But my objection to 18 year old drinking law is really more philosophical--either we think of 18 year olds as adults or we don't. I think it sends the wrong message to restrict alchohold consumption to 18 yr olds b/c we should be sending the message "you are an adult now, be responsible' Not: y ou are still a kid, so we have to baby you.

      •  What Does That Mean... (0+ / 0-)

        ..."There are too many factors involved."  I just cited two well funded, neutral, peer reviewed studies that used control groups and each tested on a single statistic (crashes per night & alcohol-related crashes among young people).  What "Factors" are somehow invalidating the results of these studies?  The "control" states numbers did NOT change (including did not go down) so there's no reason to suspect it was a result of stricter enforcement in control states, and SURELY the test states didn't run PRO Drinking and Driving ads.

        "There are too many factors involved," sounds a lot like no response at all to me.

        MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

        by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:53:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  what I meant was (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          zedaker

          that alcohol consumption is driven primarily by social factors, so its hard to isolate the effect of a law alone.

          But suppose you are right. It is still wrong in my view to continue with this paternalitic practice. We shoudl be moving AWAY from gov't control of individual choices, not towards it.

      •  Exactly (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Magenta, RonV, FutureNow, lemming22, Katie71

        If you want to debate drunk driving, debate drunk driving. If you want to debate legal drinking age, debate legal drinking age. This sort of blurring of distinction is typical among some.

        If you're so concerned about teenagers in accidents, perhaps raising the driving age to 21. I suspect more teenagers die behind the wheel than they do from drinking alone.

        But don't forget that most men without property would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor. (1776)

        by banjolele on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:55:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  So You're Saying (0+ / 0-)

          That looking at the CONSEQUENCES of a decision is a BAD WAY to make decisions.  I sure as hell hope it's "typical among some."

          OK Chief.  Remind me to never enter into a real estate partnership with you.

          MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

          by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:56:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  consequences matter (0+ / 0-)

            but you don't want to single out just one consequence. Presumably total prohibition would also have many positive consequences, not only on drunk driving, but other negative costs of alchohol as well (think of all the fights in bars tha would be prevented!)  But we realize that there is also a strong negative cost.

            What are the negatives to the 18 year old drinking age. Appart from the mixed signals it sends young adults, it also turns many of them into criminals for going out for a beer.  I also think it encourages binge drinking/irresponsible behavior--of which there is certainly no dearth in todays society despite the 18 year old law.

            The solution to alchohol problems in our society is not more laws, but a more mature attitude towards drinking. A lot of times here its either you are a drunk or a tee-totaler. (its like sex--we have this puritanical attitude (officialy) and yet porn is the biggest industry around

            •  I Actually Agree With You Here (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              happy camper

              But unfortunately we can enforce laws.  We can't enforce attitudes.  Here in Michigan especially (as per the studies I cited above Michigan experienced the biggest increases in crashes AND alcohol related crashes) we learned that lowering the drinking age kills more INNOCENT people.  One of the reasons I support the legalization of marijuana is the almost complete lack of marijuana related fatalities ever.  If I thought legalizing marijuana would get 1,000 people a year killed by high drivers I wouldn't support that either.

              MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

              by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:15:35 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Marijuana use does not (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                TooFolkGR

                 affect judgement and motor control in the way alcohol does. The few studies that have been done show virtually no effect on ones ability to operate a motor vehicle.

                What's the difference between Vietnam and Iraq? Bush knew how to get out of Vietnam.

                by happy camper on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:20:24 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  That only applies to kids that drive (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catesby, EthrDemon, lemming22, BoiseBlue

      To regulate driving, we should regulate driving.

      Drinking regulation is about drinking. And socialization. Keeping young adults away from older adults. There really is no reason a 20 year old shouldn't have a few drinks & socialize with 30 year olds. Insted, they get cut off, and do really stupid things, like taking Ayn Rand seriously.

      As oil gets scarcer, and people spend less of their lives as zombies locked in cars, hopefully we can return to a little sanity about the way we live.

      •  What You're Saying Makes No Sense To Me (0+ / 0-)

        If we remove EVERY calculus from regulation that deals with the consequences of those regulations, what are we making our decisions based on?  If "Drinking Regulations" should only be based on drinking why have any laws at all?  So we don't run out of alcohol?  Why not set the drinking age at zero?

        MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

        by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:08:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'll play devil's advocate... (0+ / 0-)

      Who cares, life is too safe already.

      If more people were getting killed by drunk drivers, terrorism wouldn't have nearly the same fear response it has now.

      Plus, fear of being killed by drunk drivers would help reduce total vehicle miles driven, and therefore oil dependance.

      Bring the WAR home

      Starve the corporate beast, buy local!

      by EthrDemon on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 11:06:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not sure where I stand on this issue. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TooFolkGR

    I turned 18 right after the drinking age went up to 21.  Most of my friends were grandfathered in.  Of course I drank.  I just didn't buy.  And I didn't drink in bars, but at private parties.  My daughter is only 9, so we have a few years yet before this issue hits home.  

    I have a problem with part of your argument.  First you say:

    The federal mandate was done with the idea of lowering the death rate from drunk driving, which has gone down since then. The problem is that it has been difficult to measure the effect of lowering the drinking age since two other effects occurred around the same time.

    And you follow with:

    So, if the legal drinking age has no demonstrable meaningful effect on traffic fatalities, why does it continue?

    That's a big "if."

    Also, in other countries drunk driving isn't the major problem it is here.  In England, you walk to the pub.  Do a "pub crawl."  You don't drive drunk.  Here it's perfectly acceptable to many.  

    As I said, I'm not sure where I stand on the issue.  But these are some of my thoughts.  

    •  See My Comment Immediately Above Yours (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fezzik, Mia Dolan

      The Federal Mandate came about because it was demonstrated empirically by studies in the 70s that lowering the drinking age led to increased alcohol related crashes (and logically, fatalities).  They didn't just think it would be a good idea.  There was science behind it.

      MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

      by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:43:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What we should do (4+ / 0-)

    Is stop treating the underage drinkers as petty criminals.  Don't drive them underground but make sure we know what is going on.  That being said, I think 21 is the right age, I was an idiot still at 21 but far less than at 18...

    "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

    by skywaker9 on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:41:48 AM PDT

  •  There was an article (9+ / 0-)

    about this in our local paper this morning, highlighting the fact that the "forbidden" status of alcohol for 18-21s is thought to lead to "binge" behavior.

    My experience was that I "passed" for 18 when I was fifteen, and eagerly went to a bar and drank (7&7s) and got vomitaceous, until I was eighteen, and the thrill of getting away with something was gone.

    That lasted until I was around some free beer and friends, c. age 24.

    •  This Sounds Non-Classy But... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mia Dolan

      ...if I had to choose between eighteen year olds binge drinking and killing themselves and eighteen year olds going to a bar then getting in their car and killing someone else... well that's an easy decision for me.  I say let them stay in their frat house and chug Pucker until their liver taps out.

      MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

      by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:45:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  False choice. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        max stirner, lemming22, bottles

        Binge drinking does not happen without cars (especially since localities are adopting "social host" laws). Kids get in their cars and drive to party spots, drink, and then drive home.

        "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

        by RonV on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:09:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Right (0+ / 0-)

          And when the drinking age was lowered, MORE of them got in their cars and drove home.  What does that make yours, false point?  False period?

          MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

          by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:10:20 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I Should Also Add (0+ / 0-)

          That I was responding to someone who posited that one justification for lowering the drinking age is that it would prevent binge drinking deaths.  How is that a false choice for me and not for them?  What magic makes it impossible to binge drink if you can buy the alcohol legally?

          MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

          by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:11:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The false choice is your choice of kids... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lemming22, bottles

            Either binging themselves to death or going to a bar, getting drunk, and killing someone else. I maintain that "underage" binge drinking pretty much requires transportation. Both involve drinking and driving. Not one or the other.

            But at a bar, you can be refused service if you're too drunk. The bartender can call you a cab. Etc. Pretty hard to call a cab out to the middle of the woods where the party is likely to be.

            By driving "underage" drinking underground, we are in effect, encouraging more dangerous behavior.

            "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

            by RonV on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:25:46 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You're Still Doing It (0+ / 0-)

              You are asserting that there is a negative relationship between binge drinking and the drinking age... but saying that for me to say someone binge drinking is less likely to drive is a false choice.  Then you're saying that people can't binge drink in a bar... Are we debating about whether the drinking age should be lowered to 18 but only for bars?

              And I went to college.  We didn't just buy our alochol and bring it in-house for illegal drinking.  We did it because it was a hell of a lot cheaper than going to bars.  We even had frats that didn't ALLOW underage drinking and they still had their parties in house and bought in bulk.

              If you want to call everything I say a "false choice" I can handle that, but it really isn't fair of you to just come back with false choice after false choice in response.

              MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

              by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:31:09 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  What do "dorms" and "frat houses" mean to you? (0+ / 0-)

          When I was in college, there was a lot of binge drinking going on on-campus that very few kids drove to.  I know (especially in high school) there were a lot of binge parties, but not all binge drinking requires a car.

          •  True, But things are changing (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            EthrDemon, Downpuppy, dhshoops, bottles

            So-called "Social Host (Liability) Laws" are making it more and more difficult for underage drinkers to party at home, at a friends house, and even in dorms. At least 32 states have these types of laws on the books.

            So, what's a party-minded teenager to do? Drive to an undisclosed location and party like it's 1974.

            "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

            by RonV on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:48:18 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bottles

        In my fraternity house, the only way Pucker would kill you is if you got beaten to death for bringing that shit there.

        Bring the WAR home

        Starve the corporate beast, buy local!

        by EthrDemon on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 11:09:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yep (7+ / 0-)

      Alcohol will be used responsibly in my household, and it will not be hidden from the kids. If they can see that alcohol is a normal part of life for grown-up people, then it takes the "forbidden fruit" attitude out of it, and helps them make safe decisions later on.

      "Hey, woman!" --- John McCain as Mr. T as Clubber Lang in "Baracky II"

      by droogie6655321 on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:49:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Therein lies the problem. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        banjolele

        for grown-up people

        It is clearly an adults-only activity, therefore kids will fall over themselves trying to do it...

        No politician ever lost an election by underestimating the intelligence of the American public. PT Barnum, paraphrased...

        by jarhead5536 on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:52:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Depending on their attitude toward alcohol.... (5+ / 0-)

          ... maybe yes, and maybe no.

          If they see alcohol used in a responsible way, it will be BORING to them. If it's something that is hidden and prohibited, then it will seem EXCITING to them.

          "Hey, woman!" --- John McCain as Mr. T as Clubber Lang in "Baracky II"

          by droogie6655321 on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:54:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah In My Hometown (0+ / 0-)

          There was just this big scandal where all these inner city fourteen year olds got fake IDs so they could vote and register for the draft.

          I don't think adults only has anything to do with the attraction.  I think the attraction is getting shit-face drunk.

          MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

          by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:54:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  It works (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        droogie6655321, lemming22, bottles

        When we went to live in Cyprus in 1968, my parents told us that we would be allowed to drink at home, so that the "forbidden fruits" aspect was shot down. Furthermore, the alcohol was diluted with mineral water. As I grew older, the percentage water decreased, so that when I was 18 (which is legal for the purchase of alcohol in England), I not only did not feel a need to get drunk, but I also had pretty good idea about my capacity.

        Nowadays, I drink very little, although I enjoy a glass of wine as much as the next connaisseur.

        The Prince of Peace has been usurped by the God of War.

        by Spoc42 on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:02:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  WTF? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bubbanomics, TooFolkGR

    So, if the legal drinking age has no demonstrable meaningful effect on traffic fatalities,

    That just simply isn't true.

    http://www.madd.org/...

    There have been lots of studies that show a correlation between the 21 law and reduced alcohol-related traffic fatalities.  

    •  Do not link to MADD (4+ / 0-)

      It is a dishonest organization whose goal is to ban alcohol entirely. Drunk driving is just a publicity tool for them. Their founder (who had completely honest goals of fighting against drunk driving) left the organization way back in the 1990s, disappointed in the direction it had taken.

      •  Maybe so (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TooFolkGR

        I am not here to plug MADD.  The MADD link, however, refers to a number of studies that have found a correlation between raising drinking age and reduced alcohol-related driving fatalities.  Others here have posted (non-MADD) links as well.

        I am torn on the issue of the drinking age, but lean toward keeping it at 21.  But if you are going to debate the issue, you can't say that there is no evidence that 21 saves lives.  There is lots of evidence.  This diary is totally dishonest in that regard.  

  •  The U.S. needs a common-sense approach that (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Spoc42, Catesby, lemming22, banjolele

    will introduce our young people to responsible drinking habits.  How about a two-drink maximum for people from the ages of 17-20, provided that:

    1. You're not driving that night, and
    1. You're accompanied by an adult who's at least 30.

    Then, when you turn 21, you get the same priveleges that 21-year-olds have today, but you've had experience in responsible drinking.

    You can lead a Republican to the facts, but you can't make him think.

    by Greasy Grant on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:45:25 AM PDT

  •  My thoughts (4+ / 0-)

    reduce the drinking age to 18 and, at the same time, make the penalties for drunk driving much more severe (mandatory loss of license for a year, 10 days mandatory prison time).

    Encouraging responsible behavior with both carrots and sticks makes sense.

  •  I'm 22 (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alicia, TooFolkGR, Mia Dolan, banjolele

    and I'm all for keeping the drinking age at 21. I drank underage (who doesn't?) and have many friends who have got into accidents and got DUIs. But those people put themselves and others in jeopardy because they weren't responsible regardless of whether they were 18 or 25. Just because you pass a magical line in time does not mean you automatically can drink and drive more safely.

    Lowering the drinking age is not going to make all of us any safer: there will always be people who don't know their limit and make poor choices and get behind the wheel of a car and put people and themselves in danger. Also, lowering it is not going to stop underage drinking because people start drinking even before 18 now and people will always binge drink nomatter how old they are.

    If you make good choices and teach your kids to respect good choices, you know you've done a good job and hope that other parents are doing the same. The government has no role in this. Good parenting can't be legislated.

    •  I drank in high school once. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zedaker, Downpuppy, Dude1701, banjolele

      Jack Daniels. Hated it.

      After that, I didn't drink any alcohol until well into college, and the main reason I did was because I was busted for pot and couldn't enjoy it anymore because of the fear of getting busted again.

      And I still hate Jack Daniels.

      "Hey, woman!" --- John McCain as Mr. T as Clubber Lang in "Baracky II"

      by droogie6655321 on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:52:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Support (6+ / 0-)

    I support the government banning adults aged 18-20 from using a legal substance: alcohol.  But then, I also believe the government should ban women from drinking hard liquor because it isn't lady-like, and ban minorities from drinking on workdays, since those people have a propensity for laziness that alcohol exascerbates.  I mean, as long as the government is limiting certain rights for adults based on artificial classifications, lets go whole hog!

    •  No kidding (7+ / 0-)

      That is the whole issue, in my eyes. We're denying ADULTS a right.

      At 18 I lived alone, worked 40 hours a week, paid taxes, bought groceries but couldn't buy a beer.

      And it didn't stop me from drinking, either.

      One failure after another and the final result is anarchy. -edscan

      by BoiseBlue on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:57:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I Just Don't Agree Here (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mia Dolan, BoiseBlue

        And I say that as someone who is a big fan of yours.  :)

        First off, drinking alcohol isn't a right.  I live in SW Michigan, and there isn't anywhere here you can buy liquor on Sunday.  Some counties don't allow beer/wine sales until noon on Sunday.  Some townships and municipalities don't allow any alcohol sale at all, ever.  It just isn't a "right" period.  

        And beyond that, even if it were, I would agree with you if I thought the distinction was arbitrary.  I don't think it is.  Across the board, the younger you are, the more likely you are to drink and drive.  We already know this to be true of people who are 21 and up.  It logically follows that this would continue among people who were 20 and down.  This isn't a bulletproof justification of why it was ever set to 21, but it (and the studies I cited elsewhere in the thread) are plenty good of a reason to not lower it now.

        You have to be older than eighteen to vote, run for President, or collect social security.  These are not truly "arbitrary" distinctions and neither is the drinking age.  Likewise cars kill more people than anybody.  Should the "Right" to drive (which also isn't a right) be withheld until people are eighteen?

        If there's ANYTHING arbitrary in the whole picture, it's the fact that in the billionth of a second between seventeen and eighteen, you've hit some magical responsibility level where you should be allowed to just do anything anybody can do.

        MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

        by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:06:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, I agree with this: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TooFolkGR

          If there's ANYTHING arbitrary in the whole picture, it's the fact that in the billionth of a second between seventeen and eighteen, you've hit some magical responsibility level where you should be allowed to just do anything anybody can do.

          Completely. It is all arbitrary. I moved out at 16 years old and finished school while doing all the above that I mentioned. So I agree with that.

          Some counties don't allow beer/wine sales until noon on Sunday.  Some townships and municipalities don't allow any alcohol sale at all, ever.  It just isn't a "right" period.  

          But that is applied across the board. In Idaho, no alcohol is sold between 2 am and 6 am. It's not restricted to drinkers of a certain age, it's across the board.

          Across the board, the younger you are, the more likely you are to drink and drive.

          Again, I agree with that, as it's something that my friends and I did between 18 and 21, but I don't think that makes a strong case for why alcohol shouldn't be sold to an 18 year old. If anything, we probably would have driven less because we wouldn't have been out trying to get more beer.

          One failure after another and the final result is anarchy. -edscan

          by BoiseBlue on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:15:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well For Clarification (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BoiseBlue

            Some counties don't allow beer/wine sales until noon on Sunday.  Some townships and municipalities don't allow any alcohol sale at all, ever.  It just isn't a "right" period.

             

            But that is applied across the board. In Idaho, no alcohol is sold between 2 am and 6 am. It's not restricted to drinkers of a certain age, it's across the board.

            I may have worded this poorly, but this passage was part of my demonstration that purchasing alcohol is not "in general" a "right."  "Freedom of Religion" is a "right," and a township board could not make a rule banning prayer between 2AM and 6AM.

            I talked about the age distinctions later.

            MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

            by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:18:28 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Disagree (0+ / 0-)

          First off, drinking alcohol isn't a right

          Rights are inherantly possessed by the people, not handed out by the government.  Adults choosing what to put into their own bodies most definitely is a right, because you don't have the right to tell them not to.

          Bring the WAR home

          Starve the corporate beast, buy local!

          by EthrDemon on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 11:13:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Moi aussi... (0+ / 0-)

        I graduated from HS a few weeks before I turned 16 and attended college for 2 years back when the average student center had a rathskeller or pub and a valid college ID would get you in and if you got in, you got served. At 18 I was an E-4 in the navy, married with a child on the way... I was stationed in VA where the drinking age was 21 but the enlisted club served anyone over 18 and the vending machines in the barracks dispensed beer without checking ID...not to mention the package store at the navy exchange often would not even card military in uniform... I say all that to say part of the problem is that the very institutions that are supposed to be keeping watch at the gate are often aiding and abetting at the same time.

  •  It should be 21 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WayBeyondSoccerMom, bubbanomics

    For the same reason that the speed limit is low - to keep violations reasonable.

    I don't actually mind if an 18 year old drinks.  I do mind if he buys beer for his 16 year old friends who then do a lot of very stupid destructive stuff and possibly get hurt.  A 21 year old is less likely to have 16 year old friends, and if he buys for his kid brother or sister, he's going to have the wrath of the parents in mind if something bad happens.

    You could set the age at a lower number like 18, but then enforcement would have to be draconian.  I'd rather have somewhat lax enforcement (as we do now), and a drinking age of 21.

    "When the President does it, it's not illegal" - Richard Nixon, 1974; US Congress, 2008

    by nightsweat on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:55:06 AM PDT

    •  18 yr olds don't have 16 yr old friends. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      netguyct, BoiseBlue

      18 is when most kids graduate from high school and go to college  (or military or ft work).  Its much more likely than a 21 yr old is going to hang out with 18 yr olds on a regular basis, than an 18 yr old is going to hang out with 16 yr olds.

      •  Many do. (0+ / 0-)

        Especially if they know them through school activities or sports.  You can be talking only one grade level.

        "When the President does it, it's not illegal" - Richard Nixon, 1974; US Congress, 2008

        by nightsweat on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:08:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  One level, when its between hs/college is a huge (0+ / 0-)

          difference.  I'm not saying kids never talk to the younger kids they knew in school, but they don't regularly socialize with them like they do with their college friends.  

      •  Wrong, 18 year olds are in high school (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nightsweat, TooFolkGR, Mia Dolan

        My son will turn 18 the start of his senior year.  

        I don't want the drinking age lowered.

        When I was in high school, you could drink at 18, and there were many high schoolers ages 14-17 getting drunk because it was so easy to find an 18 year old high school senior to buy it for you.

        When the drinking age increased to 21, high school drinking really fell off, because there were less ways to gain access to it.

        I'm sorry if college kids are binge drinking, but I would rather they be binge drinking than high school kids.

        Between learning to drive and dealing with puberty, alcohol is one less thing high school kids need access to.

  •  minimum at 21 has benefits (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alicia, bigforkgirl, TooFolkGR, Mia Dolan

    as can be seen here.

    First paragraphs:

    ScienceDaily (July 3, 2008) —  One of the most comprehensive studies on the minimum drinking age shows that laws aimed at preventing consumption of alcohol by those under 21 have significantly reduced drinking-related fatal car crashes.

    Specifically, the study published in the July 2008 issue of the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention found that laws making it illegal to possess or purchase alcohol by anyone under the age of 21 had led to an eleven percent drop in alcohol-related traffic deaths among youth; secondly, they found that states with strong laws against fake IDs reported seven percent fewer alcohol-related fatalities among drivers under the age of 21.

    (-8.00,-7.85) "Jesus Christ was the first nonviolent revolutionary." --S. Stills

    by bubbanomics on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 08:56:39 AM PDT

    •  Yeah This is Something Age Lowering Advocates.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bubbanomics

      ...don't care about.  You can see it all over this thread, "You can't consider drinking and driving when regulating drinking!"

      MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

      by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:22:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm curious. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bubbanomics

        Has anyone ever done a study examining what happens to the 21-25 drunk-driving rates when the age limit was raised?

        •  I Confess I Do Not Know (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bubbanomics, Indexer

          When the age was lowered, the overall rate and the "youth" rate both went up.  I guess I would be surprised if anybody ever studied a specific group to see the impact of a law that did not apply to them.

          MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

          by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:26:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  But it does apply to them. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bubbanomics, dpryan

            At least it does as soon as they turn 21.

            I think it would be instructive to know if, for instance (and I'm making up numbers just for illustrative purposes) when the drinking age was 18 there were 5 drunk driving fatalities per 100k miles driven among 18-21 year olds, but only 2/100k among 21-25 year olds; but when the drinking age was raised there were now 5/100k among 21-25.

            That would suggest that the age has nothing to do with it and we're just delaying the effects. The overall rate certainly would go down simply by taking a whole age-cohort out of the equation.

            •  Thanks For Explaining (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bubbanomics, Indexer

              If you look at my first reply in this thread, you'll see that one of the two studies in the seventies counted actual accidents per night... and that rate went up when the age was lowered.  So no, the accidents should not represent a shift in the age.

              MY McCain / "Dungeons & Dragons" Character Sheet - "Funster" - L6 Male Human Rogue - S15/D18/Co16/I13/W10/Ch11 - FEAR MY UNCANNY DODGE OLD MAN!

              by TooFolkGR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 03:19:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  dunno the answer to that. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Indexer

          I'll have to ask my public health buddies about that one.

          p.s.  Good to see ya here, Indexer.

          (-8.00,-7.85) "Jesus Christ was the first nonviolent revolutionary." --S. Stills

          by bubbanomics on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:36:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The whole concept is wrong (6+ / 0-)

    I checked "0" because I am against any all-purpose legal drinking age. In my experience, a permissive attitude to drinking is far more likely than prohibitions to teach young people to drink responsibly. Growing up in a country with no legal drinking age, I was given an occasional sip of wine to taste from about age 6, was occasionally given a glass of wine at dinner from about 13, and I drank at parties and when going out from about 15. Yet, I have only been drunk a few times in my life, have never driven a car when drinking, or done anything else irresponsible alcohol-related. Most of my friends were brought up similarly and with similar consequences.

    I certainly don't oppose all age-related restrictions. Zero-tolerance for drinking and driving for young drivers (under 21, say) may be reasonable. For various reasons (some of which have more to do with liability than with alcohol policy per se), it can make sense to limit or prohibit alcohol sales to minors (under 18). And letting young children drink significant amounts of alcohol is obviously neglect or abuse. But the state has no business prohibiting parents from serving a glass of wine to their 14-year old, and it has no business telling an 18-year old that he or she is fit to serve in the military, but not to have a beer.

  •  Having spent 21 yrs in Europe... (7+ / 0-)

    ...I personally believe that they have a more pragmatic approach on drug and alcohol issues.  And, were their approaches problematic, our government would be flaunting report after report highlighting their inherent policy problems and extolling our policy advantages.

    Regarding the drinking age in Germany for example, one is legally allowed to drink beer and wine at age 16.  Often this is under parental/adult supervision and teenagers are able to develop perspective.  However, these same teenagers are not allowed to get their driver's license until they're 18 and only after a mandatory, lengthy and expensive driver's education course.  This tends to result in more responsible drinking habits since drinking is no longer a rite of passage and the loss of a driver's license carries more weight.  Additionally, European auto insurance rates are already prohibitively expensive without the compounding influence of a DUI.

    Alas, pragmatism doesn't seem to have a place in the US argument.  We have age-old puritanical cultural norms that demonize both alcohol and drug use compounded by a maniacal vocal minority that tends to drown out the sensible majority.  Furthermore, the public transportation infrastructure ala Europe does not exist in the US to support a reduction in drinking age lower than 18.

    Nonetheless, if you're old enough to die and kill for your country, I believe you should be legally able to drown your resulting demons should you so desire.

    ..most profound moments of my life...the last few..

    by tristan57 on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:00:57 AM PDT

  •  The drinking age is absurd (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RonV, EthrDemon, Downpuppy, Anjana, dhshoops

    The high, and highly enforced, drinking age has resulted in a rift between the social worlds of those under and over 21. Younger drinkers are barred from being socialized into adults' culture of responsible drinking. Instead, they are caught in a culture where they feel obliged to show off how much they can get away with drinking. Several comments here have already alluded to the fobiden fruit factor.

    A larger consequence is that the young are cut off from social contact with potential mentors. For example, in the past it was common for professors to invite their students to drink wine with them and teach them more informally. Now, the legal risks for the professors are too high, and students live in a more impoverished world as a result.

    As for kids who obey the law and refrain from drinking until they are 21, they do not develop the habits of responsible drinking and often become raging alcoholics.

  •  First we legalized Absinthe (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RonV, EthrDemon, Anjana, Sarahsaturn

    Then Barney Frank introduces legislation to decriminalize marijuana.

    Now we are lowering the drinking age.

    Could we actually be coming around to a more rational and realistic view on substance regulations?

    Hell... I'll drink to THAT!

    Thinking men can not be ruled. --Ayn Rand

    by Wisper on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:07:12 AM PDT

    •  denatured absinthe...not the real stuff. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      EthrDemon, Anjana

      They did the same with exported Pernod, Uozo and Sambuca...took the opiates out of them.  Now the stuf you used to be able to get in-country was incredible...I saw Jesus on numerous occassions!

      ..most profound moments of my life...the last few..

      by tristan57 on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:13:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Drinking irresponsibly (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cerulean, Wisper, netguyct, Anjana, BoiseBlue

    is a behavior that isn't limited to the young.  However, it is more likely in that group - just like a lot of other irresponsible behavior.   One of the benefits of growing older is that you get to look back and think "how could I have been so dumb!"  

    18 was the legal age for alcohol when I turned 18.  Believe it or not, I didn't go out and get hammered.  I did have a beer, though.  I do remember (sort of) a number of keggers in college, but again, not the sort of binge drinking I hear about today.  Yes, we did a lot of stupid things.  But we grew out of it.  

    JMHO, but if anything, shifting the age to 21 simply shifted the age of stupid.  I see a lot of 21-25 year olds doing things that I was well past by 21.  I'd been there, done that by that time.  

  •  Brain research clearly shows (4+ / 0-)

    that the thinking/judgment part of the brain (frontal lobes) is not fully developed until the mid 20's.  Teens/early 20's judgment (overall, not individually) is not that of an older 20's adult.  

    So when a teen does something where the reaction is, "What was he (she) thinking?"  The answer is usually: they weren't.  So you get more impulsive behavior.

    There is no safe level of alcohol determined as yet for those whose brains are still developing.  Until that is determined, and for the reasons above, I am thoroughly opposed to lowering the legal drinking age.

  •  the drinking age...is dumb (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Anjana, Norbrook

    People should learn to drink before they learn to drive, not after.  Dumb, dumb, dumb. Dumb :)

    In all seriousness, you simply cannot legislate morality.  Case study after case study proves this to be demonstrably true.  Drinking (or smoking or snorting or injecting, for that matter) isn't the problem. Oppressive laws criminalizing otherwise personal behavior are the problem.

    And age limits after about elementary school are particularly funny.  40 year olds are no more competent to make choices about drugs than 20 year olds.  The most dangerous drivers are old folks, not teens.  Students who graduate from 'wet' campuses seem to be able to compete in the workforce with students who attended 'dry' campuses. And I suppose all those Jews and Catholics that use wine with religious practices are committing child abuse, as are parents who give their kids some champagne at New Year's?

    •  Its not morality (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bubbanomics, WiseFerret

      Its brain development.

      •  So it should be illegal to impair brain cells? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        EthrDemon, Matthias

        Should we ban soccer?  Make the drinking age 30?  21 year olds are not fully developed.

        I don't follow at all.  What Constitutional authority does the government have?  How does it benefit society?  Why don't we see brain damage among people in European countries with lower drinking ages?

        I understand the moral argument for prohibition; I just disagree with it.  I respectfully ask for substantial evidence for any other justification.

        •  Its not brain damage (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Catte Nappe, bubbanomics

          its brain development.  The brain is not fully developed until the early 20s, and the last areas to develop concern judgment.  

          •  That doesn't answer my concerns, though (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            EthrDemon, Matthias

            I understand that alcohol is bad for you.  Most drugs are.  Even "prescribed medications" are dangerous.  Heck, just driving to work is incredibly dangerous.

            My question is, why is that a criminal concern?

            First, teenagers get lots of other choices.  What is unique about alcohol that requires more developed judgment?

            Second, what is the Constitutional basis for making 'judgment' a criteria?

            Third, what about people whose judgment never 'fully' develops?  Are they never allowed to drink?

            Fourth, why can't other people make the judgment that an individual can drink?  Why is it criminal for me to buy alcohol for somebody else?  If I'm competent, can't I make the judgment that it's ok for him to have a drink?  What is it that makes the state the best arbiter of that question?

            The scientific evidence seems pretty clear to me that teenagers are competent 'enough' to make life choices.  They have sex, groom themselves, pursue a variety of academic interests, work, join the military, and even compete in the Olympics.

            •  OK (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bubbanomics

              I understand that alcohol is bad for you.  Most drugs are.  Even "prescribed medications" are dangerous.  Heck, just driving to work is incredibly dangerous.

              My question is, why is that a criminal concern?

              There are laws for prescribed medications and for driving to work.  These laws, like laws relating to alcohol, are to protect people from both themselves and from harming others.

              First, teenagers get lots of other choices.  What is unique about alcohol that requires more developed judgment?

              It is unique because alcohol impairs your ability to do things like drive, and may even impair your judgment.

              Second, what is the Constitutional basis for making 'judgment' a criteria?

              If I recall my two semesters of constitutional law correctly, you only need a "rational basis." which is a pretty low standard.

              Third, what about people whose judgment never 'fully' develops?  Are they never allowed to drink?

              Fair point.  Not everyone is the same.  There are some people who are more mature at 12 than others who are 30.  So while 21 is based on general behavior and development, for particular individuals it is arbitrary.

              Fourth, why can't other people make the judgment that an individual can drink?  Why is it criminal for me to buy alcohol for somebody else?  If I'm competent, can't I make the judgment that it's ok for him to have a drink?  What is it that makes the state the best arbiter of that question?

              Well, you are kind of getting into the whole area of why we have laws in the first place.  As far as "the state" being the best arbiter, "the state" is not some entity that decended upon us.  The state the results of the work of democratically elected lawmakers.  The laws we have are in place because there was popular support for them and they suvived the checks and balances built into our system.

              The scientific evidence seems pretty clear to me that teenagers are competent 'enough' to make life choices.  

              Actually, when it comes to alcohol, the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary.

              •  Thanks for responding in detail (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Mia Dolan

                The DK format for commentary unfortunately renders this difficult to do in much more detail, but this is an issue that I think cuts across a lot of important Constitutional and economic questions.  The philosophical problem I have with this justification is that it renders basically any prohibition justifiable.  The cost-benefit problem I have is that prohibition causes more problems than it solves.

                There are laws for prescribed medications and for driving to work.  These laws, like laws relating to alcohol, are to protect people from both themselves and from harming others.

                I don't object to regulating dangerous activities that effect others.  What I object to is allowing some people to do things but not others.  No one, whether 15 or 50, should be allowed to drive drunk; we agree there.  But I don't see how it follows that a 15 year old should be prevented from having a beer any more than a 50 year old.  In addition, I am very hesitant of using government to prevent harm to individuals.  We're not talking about some imminent harm like someone about to commit suicide.  The kids menu at many restaurants is more unhealthy than a drink.

                It is unique because alcohol impairs your ability to do things like drive, and may even impair your judgment.

                So the activity that should be criminalized is the driving after drinking, not the drinking.

                If I recall my two semesters of constitutional law correctly, you only need a "rational basis." which is a pretty low standard.

                I'm not a huge fan of the rational basis test, but the main point I would make is that within the rational basis test, there's still questionable federal power to pass age laws.  Imagine an extreme case (for today's thinking).  The federal government wants to ban interracial marriage.  It can't do that outright.  So it tells states that any state that recognizes an interracial marriage will be denied federal funding for highways.  Is that Constitutional?

                Or, to think of the Constitutional power a bit differently, why can the government pick different ages for different things? Are choices about alcohol really more difficult than choices about dropping out of school or having sex or driving? Who gets to determine all that, We the People? Then could We the People decide that Native Americans shouldn't be allowed to drink because alcoholism is such a pervasive problem on Indian reservations?  Could we decide that teenagers aren't mature enough to make commercial transactions or be alone in a park or any other activity in society?  Is there anything that government can't prohibit minors from doing?

                Fair point.  Not everyone is the same.  There are some people who are more mature at 12 than others who are 30.  So while 21 is based on general behavior and development, for particular individuals it is arbitrary.

                If this is an issue that warrants government action, shouldn't we err on the side of protecting public health?  Shouldn't we make the age 30 just to be safe? And at anyrate, this assumes that criminalization reduces the dangerous usage of alcohol.  Alcohol is interesting because it's binge drinking, not having a drink, that causes most of the problems, and preventing access to minors tends to do two things.  First, it drives them to more dangerous drugs (illicit drugs are actually easier to get in many secondary schools than alcohol because of age laws).  Second, it tends to encourage binge drinking as the major hurdle is the first drink. Once you break the law, might as well party.  And if anything goes wrong, it makes people think twice about seeking out help.

                Well, you are kind of getting into the whole area of why we have laws in the first place.  As far as "the state" being the best arbiter, "the state" is not some entity that decended upon us.  The state the results of the work of democratically elected lawmakers.  The laws we have are in place because there was popular support for them and they suvived the checks and balances built into our system.

                You are right in reading that I'm a little more cynical about our laws.  I do not believe a lot of them exist due to 'popular' support.  But more so than that, I'm not sure why the will of the majority should trump the rights of the minority in areas like this.  I believe very strongly that popular support is not sufficient for regulating personal behavior.  And specific to minors, I think we should be particularly hesitant in restricting their rights because we deny them the fundamental right in a democracy, the right to vote.

                Actually, when it comes to alcohol, the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary.

                We're obviously talking about two different things.  Of course 50 year olds are more 'mature' than 15 year olds.  But there's no evidence that 15 year olds aren't mature 'enough' to make decisions, or that older people shouldn't be allowed to make decisions for them.  There's no evidence that children in European countries are worse off than children in the US, or that US children who don't drink are better off than those that do. We let people that old behind the wheel of a car, something far more dangerous, and requiring much more judgment, than alcohol.  We can't seem to decide what we think about teens and sex. We not merely allow, but require, 18 year old men to register with the government to be drafted into military service.

  •  It should 19, 18 if in the service (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matthias, Norbrook

    There's an initiative by many college presidents to lower the drinking age. Their rationale (I haven't read...just heard about) is much the same, take away the 'forbidden fruit' aspect of drinking which they fel leads to abuse.

    "...and I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords." --Kent Brockman

    by dhshoops on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:18:26 AM PDT

  •  I'm truly undecided (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Anjana

    One part of me (I think it's the mom part) wants the age to stay at 21. The other part of me remembers the 19- and 20-year old version of me, who binge drank 3 or 4 nights a week, and then slowed down once I hit 21.

    Would I have done this if the drinking age had been 18? Maybe, or maybe not. Drinking had a novelty aspect for me, due to my very overprotective parents not allowing me out of the house until college - so I think that I went a little nuts once I had that freedom.

    January 20, 2009: I'd like President Obama for my birthday, please!

    by cerulean on Tue Aug 19, 2008 at 09:29:41 AM PDT

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