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Why the Drinking Age Kills

Alcohol causes people to drink. The mere existence of it is what encourages people to consume it and sometimes over consume it. There is absolutely no argument that if alcohol did not existence, people wouldn’t drink it and would not be impacted by it. Alcohol exists, people drink it. There is a cause and an effect. Alcohol existing is the cause, people dying is the effect. That seems very brutal to say. One simple thing can cause someone to die. That seems like a harsh reality and almost does not seem true, but it is. If alcohol did not exist in our world, millions of people would not be dead as a result of it. Alcohol causes people to drink it, drinking it causes people to get drunk, getting drunk causes people to act irresponsibly, people acting irresponsibly causes drunk driving, drunk driving causes accidents, and accidents cause death. 

            Alcohol causes people to drink, but what causes people to drink alcohol? The answer is many things. Peer pressure, past trauma, stress, anything you could think of could cause a person to drink alcohol. Many people waste time trying to find deep answers to this question but fail to see that the answer is unanswerable. People drink to drink. They don’t drink to answer the question of why their parents got a divorce or why their spouse left them. They drink because they can. Sure, some people can say that they drink to forget things or to distract themselves from their world falling around them. No one in their right mind would say that they drink to get themselves in an accident and kill someone, but this is usually the case. When people abuse alcohol, something is bound to go wrong, there is almost no way that everyone involved can make it out of a situation such as that unscathed, which can answer why so many teens find themselves in motor vehicle accidents or fatalities caused by drinking and driving. 

            Adolescent years are a hard time for many. They can cause depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and a number of different things, but for now the one that should be focused on is substance abuse. As a result of immense stress people look for ways to relieve that stress and for many college aged students this comes in the form of drinking. Since it can be a lot harder to achieve this while under the age of 21 (but certainly not impossible) many college students abuse alcohol. It is a simple statement because it is a simple fact. Many college students consume more alcohol than they should as a result of stress or different anxieties. When faced with so much trouble that these students are turned to drink, they cannot be expected to make good decisions, especially when under the influence of alcohol. This is the cause of so many young adults making the terrible decisions to drink and drive. When all of these factors are mixed together it produces a recipe for immediate disaster and destruction. As people age and mature they are able to make better decisions when it comes to drinking alcohol and in turn driving under the influence, rather making the decision to not drive even remotely under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

            The stress that students face causes them to be targeted. Anyone in charge of selling or manufacturing alcohol and related products uses the fact that college aged students are more susceptible to alcoholism and substance abuse against them. If the demographic for their restaurant or their company is new 21-year-olds in need of a way to relieve themselves of the stress of their hectic weeks, they are going to be sure to reach that demographic in any way they are able to. If this means exploiting them and putting them in danger of over consumption, that does not matter. The fact that these students are overworked and overwhelmed causes companies to target their demographic. This in turn causes young adults to allow themselves to be targeted by buying into their scheme to sell their product. This causes them to drink, sometimes more than they should, which as said before starts the snowball effect of them consuming too much alcohol and ending up in an accident directly causes by their decision to drink and drive. This just continues to show us that the age of 21 is a terrible age to have adults start drinking. It is, as said before, a recipe for disaster that cannot be avoided. While it can be argued that everyone has stress not just college students, that is easily refuted. At such a young age many do not know how to handle this stress. As people age, they are faced with more turmoil and tragedy that they are taught how to deal with and overcome. At the age of 21 this stress cannot be avoided easily. Raising this age would cause problems without a doubt as it would simply prolong these fatalities but doing more to eradicate the root of the problem which is America’s mental health crisis, more specifically regarding teenagers and young adults can be an immediate solution. 

            Alcohol causes people to drink, and people drinking causes drunk driving fatalities. This is an inarguable fact. There is not one intelligent person who can confidently say that alcohol does not cause drunk driving. There are many other things that need to be taken into consideration, though. What causes people to drink, what causes people to drink too much, and what causes people to be so irresponsible when it comes to drinking and driving. These questions can be answered by the restrictions put into place by a corrupt system. In this country young adults are prohibited from drinking alcohol until they reach the age that “their brains are fully developed”. Their brains that carry the burdens of constant stress at a time where mental illness is as common as a cold. Is that really the best time to release kids into the world of drinking?

It is wrongly argued that new 21-year old’s’ are not a major cause of drunk driving fatalities. This argument has been proven wrong time and time again with each news article that surfaces about another teenager killed by a drunk driver, or killed themselves driving drunk.  In some cases, some might argue that at the age of 21 young adults have the common sense to control their drinking and opt for a ride from someone else (not under the influence) in an instance in which they had too much to drink. While this argument might be valid in select circumstances, it’s very apparent that a good majority of young adults do not share the same intelligence. 

Statistics show that drunk driving fatalities in many cases are directly caused by young adults near the age of 21. This is linked to the fact that these adults do not have the experience and intelligence with alcohol that many other older adults do in fact have. Most adults over this age have experience and know how their bodies react with alcohol. In cases where people actually adhere to the rule of no alcohol before the age of 21, they don’t know how to handle themselves with it or how much is too much for them personally. This leads to them believing they are sober enough to get behind a wheel and drive themselves and their friends back home at the end of the night. This is what causes so many people annually to be killed or cause someone else to be killed in motor vehicle accidents. With this in mind, it is very easy to see that the drinking age that so many people support truly does nothing but delay the motor vehicle accidents that are bound to happen due to irresponsible drivers let out into the world for the first time with a bottle of scotch in their hand. We can ask ourselves how we avoid this, but the truth is many believe that we already have found the answer. The answer they have provided, ironically, is the root cause of this. When we look at the facts and understand that the main point portrayed to society about the minimum drinking age is that we don’t want to damage our country’s children’s young, developing brains, we forget about the fact that we are letting freshly developed brains go out and have free reign over alcohol. This does nothing to achieve the main goal that can be easily distinguished when we look beyond what is told to us. How can we possibly believe that allowing these young adults whose brains are thought to just now have a fully developed brain with absolutely no flaws in their logic whatsoever of course, are able to make their own responsible decisions that’s consequences have the ability to end their own lives or the lives of unsuspecting others. 

After we learn the facts and true numbers about drunk driving fatalities it’s downright irresponsible to say that nothing more needs to be done to ensure that we aren’t having irresponsible adolescents a free ride to their own funeral. A minimum age to purchase alcohol isn’t the same thing as a minimum age to drink alcohol. The minimum drinking age simply means teenagers cannot legally purchase alcohol, they will still find a way to consume it if that’s what they desire which is a clear message that more needs to be done to prohibit drinking and driving. If more of the facts were exposed to the public and they were aware of how unsuccessful this law is at keeping people safe and cutting down on the number of drunk drivers let loose on the road there would without a doubt be more of a push to do more to educate the public or perhaps even raise the drinking age. Would raising the drinking age do anything to our benefit though? People have been arguing for decades that the drinking age should be raised, no matter what it is at the time, but what good can it do? If we are constantly raising the age, we are decreasing the amount of experience people have and simply prolonging the inevitable. If this age is constantly being pushed back all it does is push back the time in which they are more likely to find themselves in the situation the restriction is meant to avoid. What isn’t seen, unfortunately, is that education on this subject and different restrictions and laws being put into place would do more to benefit the country and its citizens wellbeing than what is in place. 

There aren’t many things we can do about this sad truth. Every decision made in today’s social climate is politically charged, monetarily motivated, or backed by greed. Unless there was going to be an outcome to those high up in the government that would financially benefit them, raise their status, or get them an extra vote, it will not be done which is a sad but true fact. The laws and restrictions that are currently put into place are done so with a specific motive and benefit the ones that made it directly. This is made even more clear when we truly think about the situation and realize that so much more can be done about this, but it will come at a cost. What is put in place now has no negative monetary consequence which makes it easy and convenient. The CDC states that “There is also evidence that the age 21 MLDA protects drinkers from alcohol and other drug dependence, adverse birth outcomes, and suicide and homicide.” This statement is almost insulting to anyone whose life has been negatively impacted by a drunk driving accident and anyone who has done their research knows how incorrect this is. We don’t have a handle on anything when it comes to drunk driving restrictions no matter what anyone argues. Saying that when we let these young adults out onto the road at the age of 21 it’s good for them and they will definitely stay safe is a slap in the face to anyone with a working brain. When we really think about what we’re doing we see just how stupid it is. More needs to be done to protect American people from ruining their lives because more hasn’t been done to educate them about how they need to handle themselves on the road when they’re able.

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. 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.

References

“Drunk Driving Crashes Reduced Since Drinking Age Was Raised to 21: Study – Partnership to End Addiction.” Partnership to End Addiction, https://drugfree.org/drug-and-alcohol-news/drunk-driving-crashes-reduced-since-drinking-age-was-raised-to-21-study/. Accessed 5 Dec. 2021.


“Effects of Minimum Drinking Age Laws on Alcohol Use, Related Behaviors and Traffic Crash Involvement among American Youth: 1976-1987.: Journal of Studies on Alcohol: Vol 52, No 5.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol, https://www.jsad.com/doi/abs/10.15288/jsa.1991.52.478. Accessed 5 Dec. 2021.


“Lowering the Drinking Age Has Serious Consequences – NYTimes.Com.” The New York Times – Breaking News, US News, World News and Videos, https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/02/10/you-must-be-21-to-drink/lowering-the-drinking-age-has-serious-consequences. Accessed 5 Dec. 2021.


“Pro & Con Quotes: Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered from 21 to a Younger Age? – ProCon.Org.” Drinking Age, https://drinkingage.procon.org/should-the-drinking-age-be-lowered-from-21-to-a-younger-age-pro-con-quotes/. Accessed 5 Dec. 2021

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Saffer, Henry. “13. Beer Taxes, the Legal Drinking Age, and Youth Motor Vehicle Fatalities.” De Gruyter, 25 Sept. 2017, https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.7312/gros17812-022/html.


“The Fatal Toll of Driving to Drink: The Effect of Minimum Legal Drinking Age Evasion on Traffic Fatalities – ScienceDirect.” ScienceDirect.Com | Science, Health and Medical Journals, Full Text Articles and Books., https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S016762960900112X. Accessed 5 Dec. 2021.


“The Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Public Health – American Economic Association.” American Economic Association, https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.25.2.133. Accessed 5 Dec. 2021.


“Why 21? | MADD.” MADD, https://www.facebook.com/MADD.Official, https://www.madd.org/the-solution/teen-drinking-prevention/why-21. Accessed 5 Dec. 2021.

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