Underage Drinking Still a Problem Despite Changes in Law

Think back to the mid-1980s, when the National Minimum Drinking Age Act essentially required that all states raise the minimum age for drinking to 21. Should we still be supporting that piece of legislation? Experts in Missouri and other states say, “maybe not.” Even though the law was designed to protect teens from fatal vehicle accidents — and drunk driving charges — it seems to have had an unintended effect. That is, more underage drinking is occurring than ever before, despite the legislation that turned 30 years old this July.

Raising the drinking age did have a positive impact on certain types of mortality rates. The number of deadly wrecks that involved a driver between the ages of 16 and 20 dropped by about 30 percentage points from 1982 to 1995. That is the largest decline out of any other age group. However, the laws apparently did not prevent teens from drinking — in fact, it may have made underage drinking even more appealing because of the risk-taking nature of young people’s brains.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, along with another study known as Monitoring the Future, indicate that about two in three college students drink alcohol each month. Most of those who imbibe qualify as binge-drinkers, according to experts. About 70 percent of college-student drinkers are consuming five or more drinks in one sitting. Needless to say, this has a significant impact on brain chemistry and other physical health indicators.

Underage drinking may still be a problem even though fatal accident rates in this demographic group have decreased. It is important for college students to understand the implications of underage drinking, especially if they get behind the wheel while intoxicated. A DWI conviction can lead to consequences for a student’s professional future and educational future. Still, just because a student is charged with drunk driving, that person is not automatically considered guilty of committing that crime. Defendants of all ages deserve access to a fair, unbiased courtroom proceeding.

Source: Fox News Latino, “Drinking Age Law Cut Car Accidents But Increased Underage Drinking, Survey Shows” Jul. 16, 2014