Drinking Age Research Paper Essay, Research Paper
Age Is Not The Problem, We Are
As midnight struck on November 4, 1998, the eve of Brad’s 21st birthday, he went with a group of friends to Rick’s American Caf? to celebrate his birthday. He began to play a game of “drink your age.” When he had finished 21 shots and knowing that the record among his friends was 23, he drank 3 more for a total of 24 shots of liquor. He drank them in about 1-? hours. His friends took him home and put him to bed as he passed out. His BAC continued to climb to a lethal level of .44 g/100ml, as the depressant did its work. His breathing stopped and the coroner estimates that he died at approximately 4:30 AM. He died on his 21st birthday, November 5, 1998. Tragedies similar to this one happen too often. People say that the age of 21 is an age of responsibility, and one is now responsible to drink. Well in this particular case, responsibility was not there. Having an age limit for alcohol use does nothing if individuals are not educated to use alcohol properly. Lowering the age limit to 18 will not cause any more problems that are significantly present already with the age limit of 21.
In the great land of America, responsibility is a measure of one’s age. Many privileges are granted when one reaches a certain age. At age 13, you can see a PG-13 movie; at age 15, you can begin driving; at age 18, you can buy tobacco products, vote, serve our country in the armed forces, get married and enter into a legal contract; and finally at age 21, you can drink alcohol. Studies illustrate a decrease in drunken driving fatalities when the minimum drinking age was raised. That may be true in America, but why? Why does America have these problems? European countries, specifically Great Britain, are exceptionally lenient with drinking and they do not have as many drinking and driving problems as America does. Citizens of Britain grow up with alcohol and they know how to be very responsible with it. Americans are extremely strict involving alcohol use until you age to 21. With such a late age to begin drinking, how can someone know his or her limits? A good example of this is Brad; he had an excessive amount of alcohol that his body could not handle. Many believe growing up with alcohol gives you a more responsible approach to drinking.
At the age of 18, one is entitled to most of the privileges of American society, except for alcohol consumption. How come at 18 you can be drafted into the armed forces and fight for your country possibly risking your life, but still are not responsible enough to drink? Many people argue that at the age of 18, one has not matured enough to drink. If an individual is not mature enough to drink, why is it he or she can own a gun? A gun seems a little more dangerous than drinking alcohol responsibly. If someone is not responsible enough to drink, how can they be responsible enough to get married or enter into a legal contract that could jeopardize their entire life? These arguments just do not make too much sense. For the most part, a drinking age does not deter individuals from drinking. If someone would like to drink, the drinking age does not really matter. Honestly, alcohol is simple to get and is readily available. Usually if someone gets charged with underage drinking that does not stop him or her from drinking in the near future. Education is the key to putting an end to alcohol related problems. The problem lies with the individual rather than alcohol. People need to be educated on the proper use of alcohol. In Great Britain, many start drinking at a young age and grow up with it all around them. They learn through time how to manage their consumption in a responsible way. Growing up in a family where drinking is not a problem when used safely, teaches a lesson of responsibility. Trying to discourage youngsters from drinking is very difficult. If teens want to drink, who can stop them except for parental and police intervention, which rarely happens.
One major issue pertaining to the age limit is drinking and driving. Studies have shown that lowering the drinking age slightly increases the frequency that people drink, but not the number of people who drink. Numerous drunk-driving fatalities cause American’s to fear lowering the drinking age.
The number of intoxicated drivers overwhelms America’s trauma centers each week. A stroll through the hallways of the emergency rooms each weekend, makes it clear how big a problem alcohol related injuries are. Consequently costing the United States around fifty billion dollars per year (MADD). Alcohol consumption alters three fundamental factors relating to motor vehicle crashes: it decreases driver performance, increases risk-taking behavior, and decreases the chance of survival of occupants involved in crashes. In spite of these facts, drinking and driving continues to be very common. Given the magnitude of the suffering, officials give inadequate attention to the problems. Law enforcement and the judicial system have been relatively ineffective deterrents against drunk driving. The alcohol industry spends millions of advertising dollars to increase alcohol consumption, with much of the marketing directed towards young men (the group with the highest risk). Driving while impaired could be decreased by education of alcohol use, strict consequences, and stepped up law enforcement. This is an issue of personal and social responsibility, which must be taken more seriously in the United States. If you drink you should not drive, and if you get caught then swift, sure and effective punishment should be imposed. Public policy should focus on ways to effectively decrease alcohol consumption, particularly in groups at highest risk for alcohol related deaths.
One study showed that in single-vehicle fatal crashes occurring on weekend nights in 1994, 72.3% of the fatally injured drivers 25 years old or older were intoxicated, as compared to 57.7% of drivers under the age of 25 (MADD). In this particular study and situation it seems that older individuals drink and drive more. So why would a drinking age of 21 seem relevant? Two different studies completed by an English organization and an American organization illustrates the number of auto accidents and alcohol related accidents. The study completed by an English organization showed that in 1996, 540 people were killed in drinking and driving accidents, that is one in six of all deaths in automobile accidents involve alcohol (Alcohol Concern). An American organization found that there were 41,907 automobile fatalities that occurred in 1996. Of those 41,907 fatal accidents, 17,126 involved alcohol use (MADD). That is practically one in every two or three fatalities involved the use of alcohol. Many American studies have concluded that drunken driving fatalities have decreased since 1985. Why then does England have a lower ratio of fatalities that involve alcohol? It all comes down to responsibility. It seems that the age of alcohol use at 21 is doing very little to combat drinking and driving.
Many states across America are fighting to prevent drinking and driving. Strict laws pertaining to drinking and driving need to be constructed and strictly enforced. The age limit of consuming alcohol is not dilemma, drinking and driving is the concern. There needs to be strict punishment for those individuals involved in drinking and driving. First off, the individual’s driving privilege needs to be revoked for a good number of years. Problem individuals need to be taught their lesson through strict consequences. The only way someone is going to learn from their mistake is the consequences that are involved. Many DWI offenders get a second and even a third DWI. Something is wrong with the American government if a person continually drives impaired and only gets minimal punishment.
In Great Britain many efforts have been taken to discourage drinking and driving. The Department of Transport has made drinking and driving their longest running public campaign. The first campaigns were run in 1965 and in 1967, when the current legal limits were introduced. The reduction in casualties in the 1980s and early 1990s was attributed to a combination of hard-hitting advertising campaigns, tougher penalties and improved enforcement, with well-publicized arrest figures and highly visible roadside breath-tests. Campaigns, especially those at Christmas, have helped to harden attitudes against drinking and driving, and to make it socially unacceptable. If convicted in Great Britain of driving while impaired, a minimum punishment of 6 months imprisonment plus a fine of ?5000 and a license disqualification of at least 12 months (3 years if convicted twice in10 years) is mandatory (Alcohol Concern). If charged with a DWI in America one can be convicted but will not receive this kind of harsh punishment, which Great Britain enforces. First time offenders may lose their license for 30 days, have 100+ hours of community service, pay a fine, and/or a small time of imprisonment (~30 Days).
The key to solving America’s alcohol problem is education. Limiting alcohol by age only, does not do much. Older individuals can also be incredibly irresponsible with alcohol. You cannot measure responsibility with age; responsibility must be measured by knowledge. That knowledge must be gained through alcohol education and strictly enforced consequences. Individuals need to know how to manage alcohol responsibly. Great Britain takes care of law defying individuals with strict punishment. Each person convicted of drinking and driving is screened for a good amount to determine if they have a drinking problem. Drinking and driving is not the only issue of a minimal age, it is simply a fact. Yes, alcohol does have detrimental effects on one’s mind and body, but once again the education comes into play. We as a society need to be educated on proper use of alcohol. Alcohol carries the same responsibility as driving a motor vehicle, and one must pass exams and qualify to have the privilege. We do not need to go the extent of taking exams but we need some kind of system that we can be educated on alcohol’s affects and consequences.
In what way would a lower drinking age, influence teenagers to start drinking? Most teenagers begin drinking in late middle school and early high school. By lowering the drinking age to 18, it does not seem relevant that it will influence teens to begin drinking any earlier. Right now the age limit is 21, yet statistics show that many teenagers drink. In 1995 about 10 million current drinkers were under the age of 21 (MADD). Clearly the age limit of 21, whose purpose to deter individuals from drinking, has failed. Instead of trying to just discourage people from drinking we also need to educate.
In today’s society, alcohol is a trivial problem. The problem lies in responsibility and knowledge rather then age. If responsibility is not there, alcohol will be misused causing harsh consequences. Age cannot be a measure of responsibility. No one is perfect, no one is the same, and no one matures at the same rate as the next. Untaught knowledge will not be gained by the ignorant. Alcohol is not a terrible drug, but can be turned into one without the knowledge of proper use. If our country continues to produce alcohol then education needs to be produced at a faster rate. Educating the common masses is the only possibility to stunt this fatal problem. The United States needs to take action to stop the problem of alcohol misuse.