Irresponsible behaviors warrant need for laws

      Oftentimes regarded as a very controversial issue, there is no denial that the debate over the drinking age in the United States has been and will continue to be the subject of numerous heavily contested arguments. The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 ruled that the legal age for alcohol in the U.S. is 21 years old. At 21, the United States, alongside Malaysia, South Korea and Ukraine, has one of the highest drinking ages in the world, second only to India, which prohibits the consumption of alcohol until 25 years of age. Dayna Gardella, employee at The Brown Bean Coffee Roasters in Brevard, North Carolina, says, "21 is probably a good age. Even though I'm 29, I doubt an 18-year-old would be able to handle alcohol."
      While countries such as Poland and Portugal currently have no minimum on the drinking age and other countries (Russia and the Czech Republic included) currently have 18 designated as the legal drinking age, the question to be asked would be whether lowering the drinking age in the United States would ultimately help to reduce the estimated 3,000 alcohol-related deaths by car accident each year. 
      The age of 18 is very pivotal for the American teenager. Upon reaching this age, he or she is eligible to join the military, vote, buy cigarettes and legally watch pornography. It is for these reasons specifically that many contest why a person who is able to participate in such activities is not allowed to simply purchase a beer in the United States. In many countries, the legal drinking age for wine and beer ranges from 15 to 16, but in order to purchase grain alcohol such as whiskey and vodka, the legal age is 18. In Europe particularly, lower ages for alcohol consumption have been supported by a tradition promoting responsible drinking, where consuming alcohol at a younger age is not demonized and moderation is stressed. Because supervised drinking with family members in European countries is common and viewed as a social tradition, the taboo associated with drinking alcohol amongst European teenagers is not oftentimes as present as it is in the United States.
     Whether the higher drinking age has provoked more teenagers to act out of rebellion and drink above and beyond the normal limit is also a key factor to consider when contemplating the issue. Perhaps one possibility lies in the differences of transportation between the two continents. While Europe features and promotes the heavy usage of public transportation, driving an automobile is oftentimes the only option faced by teenagers in the United States. Although driving accidents in Europe are most common amongst people in their mid-20s, such accidents remain the number-one killer among American teenagers. The scenario truly becomes deadly and extremely risky when prescription pills and alcohol are mixed before taking the wheel, a situation rarely receiving crucial attention in other continents as opposed to the attention it has received in the United States. Greg Jordan, bartender at The Square Root restaurant in Brevard, North Carolina, says, "I believe that the drinking age should be where it is or higher. Drinking is the worse thing you actually do, especially if a 17-year-old washes down two pills with liquor before taking the wheel."
     With the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act up for reauthorization this year, the issue of whether the drinking age in America should be lowered will remain extremely relevant. The issue itself, however, should not be in the forced compliance of a law, but in the moral responsibility humans hold to each other. Sarah Gibson, a freshman at Brevard High School, says, "While I believe that wine and beer should be allowed at 18 and harder alcohol should be restricted until 21, it depends on the way you view it. It's basically dependent on individual maturity."
     Drinking alcohol in a responsible fashion is not the initial problem; it is when the lives and safety of other citizens are jeopardized that such laws as the drinking age are implemented. Quite possibly will the drinking age in America be lowered only when statistics reflect that the nation recognizes the responsibility that comes with such a privilege and always considers the moral question at hand before getting behind the wheel. 

The original version of this article was published in The Broadcaster and can be viewed here