By Joe Suszczynski
On Oct 17, 2012 Student Government Association Senator Bobby Berriault wrote a retort to an opinion piece published in The Recorder that stated that the drinking age should be kept at 21. Berriault argued that it should be lowered to 18.
One of his arguments was that college students are “smart and innovative,” contrary to the general belief that college students are stupid. I’m not saying that’s a naïve statement because there are responsible college students out there, but I think the senator gives college students a little too much credit on that point.
I’m 22-years-old and there are kids my age, who are of the legal drinking age, that act irrationally when they drink. So why is it better to lower the drinking age when my age group acts crazy when drinking is involved? It’ll just make it worse because it opens up a Pandora’s Box of new problems that the public will have to deal with if the drinking age is lowered.
Another anecdotal reason why the drinking age should not be lowered to 18 is because it gives kids younger than 18 a better chance to obtain alcohol. What I mean by that is a 15 or 16 year old can pass for 18 a lot easier than trying to pass as 21.
The day I turned 21, I went to the package store to buy my first alcoholic beverage. When I got to the line I was ready to pull out my ID, but the clerk didn’t even bother to ask for it, which was shocking to me. A possible reason is that I have a full beard and to the average person, having facial hair gives someone a few more years than how old they really are. The clerk probably took me for a person in their mid to late 20s rather than a kid who just turned 21.
Now of course the solution to that problem is to have all clerks check all IDs, but there are always inept clerks who just go by assumption, which could cause problems if they are not careful.
Here is one reason that lowering the drinking age can be a major issue when I mentioned that lowering the drinking age to 18 would open up Pandora’s Box of more problems.
According to the National Institutes of Health, in the mid-1970s, alcohol was a factor in over 60% of traffic fatalities. Traffic crashes were the leading cause of alcohol-related deaths and two-thirds of traffic deaths among persons aged 16 to 20 involved alcohol. This was when the drinking age was 18. Now since the early 1980s, alcohol-related traffic deaths per population have been cut in half with the greatest proportional declines among persons 16-20 years old.
The reason for the decrease in alcohol-related traffic deaths was because of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act that was passed by Congress in July 1984, raising the purchase and possession of alcohol to 21.
So in the simplest terms: once the drinking age was brought back to 21, traffic accidents involving alcohol and kids younger than 21 went down dramatically. Traffic accidents for 16-20 year olds will go back up due to the easier access of alcohol if the drinking is lowered to 18 once again.
The senator is right in the sense that alcohol consumption is not a government problem. What should be done is parents should educate their children on the issue of drinking and its potential consequences. If the parents cannot get the message to their child for whatever reason, it should be up to the students to learn for themselves about alcohol. Education is always better than ignorance.
Lowering the drinking age to 18 will only lead to problems in the future. Automobile crashes could potentially increase if the drinking age is lowered. The senator’s belief that students can act responsibly while drinking is not entirely false. It is problematic, however, as it will increase problems for the authorities because more people will have access to alcohol.
I understand that college students are going to drink no matter what, but there has to be a line drawn because nobody, no matter what age they are, makes the smartest of decisions when drinking. It is a simple fact that alcohol impairs one’s judgement. The main thing is that education has to be there when it comes to alcohol. Without that everything falls to pieces. If anything, it’s best to drink under supervision to make sure everything is as safe as possible.
And for all the college students under 21 years old who want the drinking age to be lowered who are reading this, you can wait until 21 to drink legally. I did.