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Keep legal drinking age where it is – at 21

If there’s a deeply compelling reason for dropping the minimum legal drinking age to 18, the distinguished academic supporters of the Amethyst Initiative haven’t made it yet.

Granted, the statement signed by 100 college presidents – including Pacific Lutheran University’s Loren Anderson – doesn’t come right out and say they want a lower drinking age, only that they seek “an informed and dispassionate debate” over the issue. But it clearly states that they believe the current legal drinking age of 21 isn’t working.

They note that “clandestine binge-drinking” is pervasive on college campuses and that in order to buy alcohol, many underage students resort to using fake IDs, a choice that erodes “respect for the law.”

The presidents fail to show how making alcohol easier to get at a younger age would have a dampening impact on binge-drinking. If anything, it would almost certainly worsen the problem and shift it to an even younger age group – high school seniors.

As for using fake IDs, that should become less of a problem as the states comply with tougher federal rules on identification. Much of the fake ID problem could be addressed by getting tougher with drinking establishments that don’t adequately check customer ID. And since when do we do away with good laws just because there are those who choose to break them?

While the proponents fail to make the case for a legal drinking age of 18, those arguing to keep the legal drinking age at 21 are highly persuasive.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving cites a number of well-supported studies that show raising the drinking age to 21 has significantly reduced drunk-driving deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it saves about 900 lives a year. And the National Institutes of Health reports that delaying the legal age of drinking reduces future rates of alcoholism; binge drinking; and alcohol-related traffic accidents, injuries and violence.

Dealing with a college population whose ages vary widely can be a hassle for school administrators – no doubt about it. Their lives would be a lot easier if they could treat all students the same. But lowering the drinking age is a wrong-headed solution. It would only result in more deaths, more ruined lives.

That’s too high a price to pay for convenience.
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source: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com

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