Staff Editorial: Lower the Drinking Age
129 college presidents have instigated a national discussion to lower the legal drinking age from 18 to 21, and Mary Wash is still hung-over from its first weekend back. After a weekend full of busts on campus and off, it’s time to consider how our community would benefit from giving 18-year-olds the right to enjoy a cold one.
Even at a smaller school like UMW, which has no football season or official Greek life, binge drinking has become a rite of passage. In a town that shuts down at 9 p.m., Fredericksburg offers little options for the under-21 crowd, thus encouraging underage drinking. By lowering the legal drinking age to 18, fake IDs will become obsolete and R.A.s will no longer investigate square backpacks.
Many freshmen enter college with the impression that getting drunk enough to puke or black out is a crucial part of the college experience. Doctors generally define binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks, and when women consume four or more drinks in under two hours.
Though binge drinking in college gets a lot of attention in the media and popular culture, it is very prevalent in adults of all ages.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 90 percent of alcohol consumed by those under the age of 21 years in the United States is in the form of binge drinks. This is compared to the only slightly less sobering statistic that about 75 percent of the alcohol consumed by persons over the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.
Drinking is a form of rebellion, and teenagers love to stick-it-to-the-Man. By making alcohol less taboo, you take away the fun there is in excess. At such a highly pressurized age, college students feel inclined not only to prove their endurance to their friends, but to prove their so-called maturity as well.
Here’s the old stand-by argument: if an 18-year-old is allowed to get married, select our next president, and die for their country, why are they not allowed to have a drink?
Another cliched yet relevant argument: college kids will drink anyway, no matter how strict the rules are or how convincing a Mothers Against Drunk Driving ad is.
The drinking age is not the problem, the lack of education is. Abstinence-only is ineffective; drinking in moderation is like practicing safe-sex. Alcohol Edu should be a prerequisite for drinking, not a punishment for it. Instead of waiting until a minor makes a mistake to inform them about the dangers of alcohol, educate everyone from the start.
There is no argument against the dangers of drinking and driving. Unfortunately, the fact that teenagers cannot drink legally does not prevent some of them from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated anyway. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 40 percent of all fatal alcohol-related traffic crashes involved persons under the age of 18. By increasing the effort to educate about the dangers of drunk driving and the importance of drinking in moderation, we can hopefully prevent this percentage from increasing.
It is important for young people to understand the difference between having a glass of wine with dinner and playing a game of “Edward Forty-hands.” (See Wikipedia entry if you don’t get the reference.)
Besides, it’s loads cheaper to be a lightweight.