As of July 2015, the U.S. State Department recognized that out of 190 countries worldwide, 61 percent of them have a drinking age of 18 or 19 years old. The United States is one of only 12 countries that has a legal drinking age of 21. Currently, some New Jersey lawmakers are considering dropping the drinking age to 18 again, despite the fact that “any state that reduces its drinking age below 21 stands to lose millions of dollars in federal highway funds,” according to an article on NJ.com. Moreover, Assemblyman Jon Wisniewski, chairman of the Assembly’s transportation committee, said, “Losing such money would be a problem for a state with transportation issues.” Personally, I feel there is more to lose from lowering the drinking age than federal highway funds. More importantly, it is about the health of the younger generation and the risk of pairing the legal ability of driving a car at 18 with the legal ability to drink.

Many people question that if the majority of the world can legally drink, then why can’t we? It is argued that if at 18 you can vote, fight for your country or get married, the legal consumption of alcohol shouldn’t be a big deal. By lowering the drinking age, young adults who were consuming alcohol illegally will no longer be penalized. Regardless, lowering the drinking age does not eliminate the consequences that come from drinking irresponsibly. Allowing more people to drink legally by lowering the drinking age will only add to the amount of people who could abuse the opportunity.

I believe that by lowering the drinking age, the age range of those who drink illegally will become even younger. Underage drinking happens regardless of the drinking age. For me, it raises the question of if it is acceptable for students to drink at 18, will kids even younger be more inclined to drink? Many students drink around the age of 18 now and assume it is acceptable because it is close to the legal age of 21.

In an article for CBS News, Chuck Hurley of Mothers Against Drunk Driving explained that lowering the drinking age “would just increase the availability of alcohol to even younger adults.” He referred to it as “the trickle down approach,” meaning the age of people getting their hands on alcohol would just get younger. This will affect the physical development of kids starting to consume alcohol at such a young age. In an excerpt from an article on the John Hopkins School of Medicine’s website, drinking at a young age “can cause alterations in the structure and function of the developing brain, which continues to mature into the mid- to late twenties. It is also a risk factor for heavy drinking later in life.” There is no benefit of lowering the drinking age if it hinders the development of children’s brains. If the law is changed, there is no way to stop younger people from drinking underage just as it is difficult to stop underage drinking now.

According to ScienceDaily, an online source about the latest research news, it has been proven that since the United States raised the drinking age to 21, thousands of lives have been saved from alcohol-related traffic casualties. The same article explained, “The laws, studies show, are associated with lower rates of drunk-driving crashes among young people.” Too many people already abuse drinking and get behind the wheel of a car. If we increase the number of people allowed to legally drink, we are risking more people recklessly driving while intoxicated.

I never saw the big deal of lowering the drinking age to 18 until I thought about drunk driving.

However, throughout high school, I realized how dangerous it could be and that many kids are not mature enough to legally be given this opportunity. If young adults were educated enough on the consequences of drinking and driving, it would be more reasonable to consider lowering the drinking age. I believe seeing real-life scenarios and hearing personal stories from victims’ families will open up people’s eyes more to the consequences of drunk driving. One year of Drug Abuse Residence Education – a program that educates the prevention of substance abuse – and assemblies given by a cop that many kids skip out on is not enough. Many kids look past that and think it is fine to drive drunk from a party because they “live around the corner.” To make it worse, they think that they are sober enough to drive others. Just because you passed your road test does not mean you can ace driving home drunk. It disgusts me that some people think it is an accomplishment to be able to get from one place to another driving a vehicle while intoxicated.

Just before this past Thanksgiving, four of my friends were driving home one night and were struck by a drunk driver. Luckily, all of them had their seatbelts on and were fine, but the car was destroyed. It is scary to think that a grown man abused his legal right to drink. If mature adults cannot handle the responsibility of not drinking and driving, then young adults definitely should not be able to legally consume at the same age they can drive. There is plenty of time to drink responsibly when at the legal age.

There is too much risk associated with allowing 18 year olds to legally drive a car and legally drink. Lowering the legal drinking age to 18 negatively affects us by increasing the amount of people who get behind a wheel after drinking. Our society’s underage drinking generation thrives on binge drinking, and allowing this behavior to be legal would only make it worse. I believe it is not necessary to lower the drinking age when it has been proven that raising it has saved thousands of lives. It is shocking that New Jersey lawmakers are looking past such progression and considering lowering the drinking age again. We should not be looking to lower the legal age to consume alcohol especially if some who are legal now cannot even enjoy drinking responsibly.

 

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