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States Contemplate Lowering the Drinking Age


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11/17/2008
Vaughan de Kirby
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We’ve all heard the arguments for lowering the drinking age:

It would lessen binge drinking, because it would allow parents to teach their young adult children moderation.

At 18, you can go to war and die for your country (not to mention pay taxes, do business, get married and bear arms), but society doesn’t trust you to make mature decisions regarding alcohol. 

Seven states—taking another look at these and other familiar arguments— are currently considering legislation that would lower the drinking age in various ways. 

Politicians in Minnesota, Vermont, South Dakota, and Missouri are considering bills and initiatives that would reduce the drinking age across the board, whereas those Kentucky, Wisconsin and South Carolina are contemplating lowering it only for members of the military.

The various proposals differ in their details. A ballot initiative in Missouri, for example, would allow those between 18 and 21 to drink in bars and restaurants, but not buy alcohol at a liquor store. 

If these states move forward with lowering the drinking age, they stand to lose up to ten percent of their federal funding for roads. In 1984, Congress passed the Uniform Drinking Age Act, which set the drinking age at 21 and threatened to take away federal funding if states did not comply. The original purpose of the bill was to reduce the number of alcohol related car accidents (DUI, DWI, etc) involving young people.

Groups like Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) continue to support the current drinking age of 21, citing research that shows a substantially reduced number of alcohol related traffic deaths among those between 16 and 20, following the passage of the federal Act. 

Some resent the Act, feeling that it is a unreasonable intrusion into a decision that each state should make according to it’s own values, rather than under threat from the federal government.





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