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Large debates over drinking age missing the point

Letters to the Editor

Brad Farley

Issue date: 9/25/09 Section: Opinion
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It's a topic that has begun being discussed openly. So when I heard about Dr. John McCardell's presentation on the possibility of lowering the drinking age, I decided to go. I was incredibly disappointed. What I got from McCardell were skewed facts, side-stepped responses to audience questions, and blabbering about vague details of random studies. Unfortunately, the other side of the debate does the same.

The debate boils down to: No. 1: fear that lowering the age would in fact promote more binge drinking in ages 18 to 20; No. 2: fear that drunk driving statistics would rise; and most ridiculously, No. 3: fear of the effects alcohol would have on brain development.

For starters, I do not understand how binge drinking in the 18 to 20-year-old age group could do anything but lower. Anyone in this age group who feels like binge drinking already can, easily. If anything, the secrecy of underage consumption, and the "black market" dealing with procuring that alcohol promotes the excess.

Secondly, I fail to see how lowering the drinking age would equal high drunk driving rates. There will still be driver's education, legal BAC limits in place, and designated drivers. Most 18 to 20-year-olds today, if drunk, choose not to drive because of the education they've received and fear of the consequences. Age does not dictate who drives drunk. To me, the drunken driving argument and the drinking age argument are distinct enough to be considered separate debates.

Third, I find the brain development argument to be a farce. The right to have a beer in public will not attribute to some massive loss in national brainpower. Our population is full of once-underage drinkers, so we've already seen the results drinking has on 18 to 20-year-olds.

The stigma that surrounds underage drinking is causing parents not to address it with their underage children and hope their child will not be affected by it (as mine did). What young adults really need is to approach drinking responsibly. That will decrease casualties and injuries from drinking more than anything else. To entrust young adults with the legal right to drink will allow them to enjoy alcohol outside an environment promoting binge drinking. Since women were given voting rights, they haven't gone haywire and voted for communists everywhere. During the civil rights movement, when southern African-Americans were given rights to sit anywhere on a public bus, they didn't go vandalizing the front seats. It stands to reason that young adults wouldn't find themselves lost in an alcoholic haze.

Binge drinking should not be the focus; it should be whether a citizen capable of voting, fighting for our country, signing contracts, and being tried as an adult in our judiciary system, has the right to walk into a restaurant and order alcohol. Common sense would dictate, "Yes." However, fancy, indefinite studies and legislators have clouded this seemingly apparent answer.
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