The Legal Drinking Age


The debate of whether or not there should be the legal drinking age has been rendered irrelevant and overtaken by event since most states in the United States have set the drinking age to be 21 years old. Interestingly, the debate has lately taken a new twist with proponents arguing that the drinking age should be lowered further to 18 years. Several reasons and justifications for lowering the drinking age have been advanced by activists in favor of lowering the drinking age. However, this paper argues in favor of establishment of a legal drinking age but lobbies against lowering of drinking age to 18. Among other reasons, this paper argues against lowering the drinking age to 18 because it will render teenagers vulnerable to drunk driving, binge drinking and alcohol poisoning, and thirdly, the risk of alcohol-associated violent behavior among teenagers. The legal drinking age should thus be set and raised higher to 21 years.

Arguments for Legislation of the Legal Drinking Age

There should be a legislation that sets the legal drinking age in virtually all the societies. This will help reduce a great number of challenges associated with un-regulated or liberal drinking behavior. One of the problems that will be solved by the legislation is drunk driving. Drunk driving has disfigured societal civilizations. Besides, the number of people who die every year as a result of drunk driving remains very high. On average, 17,000 individuals die each year as a result of drunk driving (Thio and Jimmy 214). A good percentage alcohol-related mortality was related to either young age reckless drunken driving or carelessness on the part of drunken pedestrians and road users. In 2010, for example, 10.228 people died from drunk driving (Plunk et al 464). Thus, drunk driving and related mortalities and fatalities have remained a significant public safety issue. One of the ways of remedying this fatality is raising the drinking age and not lowering it down further as proposed by in some quarters.

Drinking and driving have been significantly and accurately correlated with teenage. In 2010, the highest drunk driving rates were registered among those aged 21 to 25 (23.4%), 18 to 20 (15.1%) while the rates declined significantly among those aged 25 years and above (Thio and Jimmy 214-215). These statistics reveal that if alcohol was legalized for those aged 21 and below, the rate of alcohol consumption for this population would rise significantly. This rise in alcohol consumption among the teenagers would lead to increased fatalities resulting from drinking and driving. Legalizing drinking age below 21 years would thus be quite irresponsible. In fact, there have been suggestions that, in order to curb drunken-driving related fatalities, there is a need to even raise the drinking age beyond 21 years. Setting of a legal drinking age, especially higher drinking age, will go a long way into reducing traffic accidents and other fatalities. For example, in 98 percent of the analyses, it was found that higher legal drinking ages had associations with very low accidents, fatalities and mortalities caused by drunk-driving (Plunk et al 470).

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Besides drunken driving and the high mortality rates associated with it, drinking age should not be lowered to 18 giving the risks of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning. Lowering the drinking age to 18 should thus not be legalized because of the prevalence of binge drinking, especially among college students. Today, a brief walk in the surrounding of major campuses, colleges and universities in the United States would leave one astonished by just the plethora of drinking parties, bars and restaurants that are crowded by teenagers, rowdy youths who drink themselves off throughout the night. This is very risky for this vulnerable population. It is a saddening reality that almost half (44%) of students in campuses, colleges and universities attending a 4 to 5 year course drink alcohol (Thio and Jimmy 214). The drinking level is binge or higher. Another 30,000 of college students develop medical complications and are admitted for treatment in hospitals every year to help them cope with problems resulting from alcohol poisoning (Plunk et al 469).

It is not amusing to read reports that 157 college students who are aged between 18 and 23 drank themselves to death for the years ranging between 1999 and 2005 (Plunk et al 464). Given medical complications associated with binge drinking among minors, setting of the legal drinking age is an undertaking whose time is long overdue. If the drinking age is left to be liberal or set at an age lower 21 years, many more minors and teens would be exposed to the risk of epidemics and other medical complications resulting from extreme and addictive drinking and alcohol poisoning during the drinking sprees (Thio and Jimmy 214). The government should thus initiate legislation that will review the legal drinking age and even set it higher if a dozen more of the youthful population is to be rescued from binge drinking and alcohol poisoning. This is because binge drinking and alcohol poisoning have ruined the lives of many youths, especially in colleges and campuses; they either died or rendered dysfunctional after getting introduced to binge drinking or being poisoned by peers through alcohol and excessive alcoholism (Bonnie and Mary 34). If the legal drinking age is established, alcohol consumption in general will reduce. Studies have shown that setting a legal drinking age and raising it even higher has the effect of lowering alcohol consumption (Thio and Jimmy 215). This, in effect, will reduce health complications associated with over-consumption of alcohol, alcohol dependency and addiction (Plunk et al 464).

The third reason why a legal drinking age should be set is the challenges associated with alcohol-induced violent and destructive behavior. Alcohol is associated with an increased rate of irresponsible sexual behavior, academic failure, drug abuse and alterations in the functioning of the brain. This is the case especially among the teenagers aged below 21 years. This section of the population is very vulnerable to violent, irresponsible and destructive alcohol-induced behavior. This is partly the minors who are unable to regulate their drinking levels neither are they in a position to control themselves and control their behavior. Statistics indicate that approximately 86 percent of homicide offenders, 37 percent of assault offender and another 60 percent of all sexual offenders committed the offenses under the influence of alcohol (Thio and Jimmy 216).

The reason why the drinking age should be legislated and established is that, if left liberal as is the case in some societies, adolescents who are vulnerable to impulsivity and propensity to violent and destructive behavior will be exposed to further complications resulting from alcoholism. Irresponsible and violent behavior such as date rape would be reduced with legalization of the drinking age and probably raising it higher than 18 years (Parker and Kevin 103). Studies have established that 75 percent of male students in colleges and another 55 percent of their female counterparts are often involved in date rape (Plunk et al. 464; Plunk et al. 464). This often results from drunkenness or use of drugs, an act that leaves them unable to make responsible judgments and decisions with regard to behavior (Thio and Jimmy 214).

Arguments against Setting a Legal Drinking Age

There have been arguments against setting a drinking age or raising the drinking age to 21 years. Opponents argue that such a legislation will increase the thrill and anxiety of breaking the rule to have a taste of the prohibited drink (Maisto et al. 417). The argument is that such a move will allow teenagers, for example, to consider drinking normal and thus take alcohol with moderation. However, such a move will be very irresponsible considering that teenagers and adolescents will not be able to drink with moderation given that this stage of life is characterized with excitement that push them to act on the extreme. This has, in turn, caused many teenagers and adolescents to lose their lives out of unregulated alcohol consumption. Thus, the drinking age should be set and effectively reinforced by the law enforcement agencies (Bonnie and Mary 25-26).

The opponents of the legislation on drinking age argue that traffic accidents and fatalities are not exclusively due to teenage alcohol consumers but rather the new legal drinkers (Maisto et al 417). Although this argument is sensible, it is only partially so. Despite the fact that new legal alcoholic drinkers might cause accidents, the percentage of accidents resulting from drunken driving will be reduced if drinking age limit was set. Leaving it open will expose a dozen more to traffic accidents and fatalities. Thus, a legal drinking age should be set and reinforced further by another law prohibiting driving while one is drunk. Severe penalties for drunken driving will thus reduce accidents and fatalities resulting from irresponsible drunken driving.


Setting the legal drinking age will go a long way in solving problems related to unregulated drinking age. Although there are all manner of counter-arguments against legal regulation of drinking age, the benefits of legally regulating the drinking age are far more stronger than those of leaving this aspect unregulated. The losses associated with unregulated age for alcohol consumption are so severe that much effort should be made against all oppositions to establish a legal regulation on drinking age. Although most societies have fixed this at 21 years, raising it even higher would help to address problems such as traffic accidents, binge drinking and alcohol poisoning and irresponsible, violent and violent behavior even more effectively.