The Legal Drinking Age Kills
Drinking restrictions create more drunk drivers. This seems incredibly counterintuitive; however, it is wildly accurate. The first time someone hears this it may come as a shock. These restrictions are meant to keep us safe. They are meant to keep our children safe, and they are meant to inhibit what they directly cause. It’s difficult for us to think logically about something that has been shoved down our throats for our entire lives. When you are old enough to think critically and be aware of your own thoughts and feelings you have an understanding that you cannot drink alcohol (legally) until you turn 21. No one argues with this and more importantly no one questions it. When this is done, however, we can see the flaws with this logic and the reasons why it does just the opposite of what it is intended to.
To begin, when it is said that drinking restrictions in America inversely cause more drunk driving accidents, you need to dig a little deeper into this. They do not directly cause these accidents in the way one might think. When looking at the surface we see this meaning that the restrictions that keep alcohol away from teenagers is putting it in their hands and then putting them immediately behind the wheel; that is not the case. What it does mean, however, is that we are taking experience away from them. We are taking away the knowledge and ability to discover how their bodies interact with alcohol, how it impacts them, how much is too much, and many other factors that come into play when drinking and knowing when to stop and when not to drive you and your friends home after a night out. When kids do not have these experiences, they turn 21 and go out into the world not knowing what to do, what not to do, or when to do (or not do) it. This can be difficult to have an understanding of for most people as it’s not an easy topic to discuss. We don’t want to think that the restrictions put in place to keep us safe are actually causing more harm than we realize but accepting this is the first step in changing it. With this in mind we can then talk about the next point, that the age being as high as it is encouraging kids to drink in different conditions.
It is no secret that teenagers will do what they can to get their hands on alcohol if that is what they want to do. The legal drinking age will not stop them and whether it’s a fake ID, raiding their parents alcohol cabinet, or having an older friend help them out, they will find a way to achieve their goal. When this is done, there is the risk of keeping it a secret. This means that after a night of drinking at a friend’s house they are going to have to get home. They have an 11:00 curfew which is inching closer and closer and they’re still seven shots in. The drive home is as long as it was before and that is not changing. If they tell their parents they need to stay a little longer or spend the night because they have been drinking, then they face the disastrous repercussions when they return home. If they give their parents a call asking for them to come pick them up, again, because they have been drinking heavily, then they will still have consequences to face. With this in mind, it should be no surprise that many kids take the risk of driving themselves home after these types of nights to avoid the wrath of their parents finding out how they had been spending their seemingly harmless time with friends. This is just one of the ways that the legal drinking age does just as much harm as it does good.
One final point that should be made is that when these teenagers drinking their dad’s scotch in the basement on a Saturday night when everyone else has conveniently gone away, turn 21 and are legally allowed to purchase alcohol and go out to bars or restaurants it is a recipe for disaster. We are letting them out into the world without a single restraint on them. Without a doubt the first stop for them is their local bar for a drinking binge with their best friends. There are a number of these kids who are going to make the conscious (or perhaps unconscious) decision to drive themselves home. This is simply a horrifying, but inevitable fact, nonetheless. When we enact these restrictions, we are enabling the behavior and we are enabling the behavior to be postponed. Keeping children from drinking is postponing the drunk fatalities they will cause. That does not mean that you should let your 7-year-old enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, but it does mean that something should be done to educate people about drunk driving, not about drinking. We leave our focus on the drinking aspect rather than the driving which is our main problem. How this can be avoided is unknown, but identifying the issue is the very first step.
In conclusion, the statement that the legal drinking age and the various restrictions that go along with it cause motor vehicle fatalities caused by drunk driving can be easily misinterpreted and misunderstood. When we take this statement at face value there is undoubtedly going to be some confusion. When we take a deeper look at it and understand the dangers of letting 21-year-olds with no experience with alcohol have access to not only a valid ID and a driver’s license, but the ability to make decisions that could cost them their own lives and others, we can see how accurate this statement is. Not many people are prepared to hear the message behind this since it is undoubtedly harsh, but it is true and needs to be changed.