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Us legal drinking age set to 21 lowers death rate

But sometimes research findings are so crystal clear that there's not much room for dissension. This is true when it comes to the minimum age for legally purchasing alcohol, often referred to as the drinking age. Study after study published in scientific journals since the 1970s indicates that when this age is lowered, more people die in crashes.

Is the National Drinking Age Doing More Harm Than Good?

When it's raised, the deaths go down. These are the conclusions of a new review by Institute researchers. The reviewed studies aren't confined to the United States. They cover various age groups over various periods of time, with remarkably consistent results. People younger than 21 do still drink and then get behind the wheel, but fewer are doing this and we'd worsen the problem, not alleviate it, if we lower the age and make it easier for young people to obtain the very substance that's causing the problem in the first place," says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research and the review's lead author.

Underage drinking The studies McCartt collected cover the effects of drinking age policies on patterns of behavior including not only drinking and driving but also alcohol consumption, relying in large part on a University of Michigan survey that has been tracking consumption among high school students and young adults since the 1970s. Drinking by people in these age groups has declined since the late 1970s, and most of the decline occurred by the early 1990s. These were the years when states were establishing, or reinstating, 21 drinking ages.

State policies since the 1960s There never has been a federal law establishing a minimum age for purchasing alcohol in all U. Each state sets its own policy on the legal age to drink and, once prohibition ended in 1933, most states adopted 21 and kept this policy until the 1960s. Then the war in Vietnam, where many U.

So did the enactment in 1971 of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18. For a decade beginning in the late 1960s, legislators in most states lowered the drinking age.

  • So, in terms of single doses of alcohol, the adolescent brain is not uniformly more or less sensitive to alcohol-it depends on the brain function that is being measured;
  • These are the conclusions of a new review by Institute researchers.

Then this policy was reversed during 1978-88. Maine and Nebraska lower the drinking age to 20 1975: Michigan reinstates 21 1980-84: Congress enacts Uniform Drinking Age Act, penalizing states that don't adopt 21 1985-86: Last 2 states, South Dakota and Wyoming, adopt 21 Since 1988, all states have retained 21 drinking age policies.

Fact Sheets - Age 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age

However, these policies have been challenged in recent years by legislators in some states and by coalitions such as Choose Responsibility and the Amethyst Initiative. Binge drinking, defined as consuming at least 5 drinks on 1 occasion, peaked in the early 1980s among 18-20 year-olds and then began declining as most states adopted 21 policies.

Similar declines weren't noted among 21-22 year-olds, who weren't affected by the policy changes. High school seniors in states that still had drinking ages of 18 in 1976-81 said they drank more than peers in states that already had adopted 21. All states adopted 21 by 1988.

  1. Legal Age 21 has postponed fatalities - not reduced them - because every claim of an 18, 19, or 20 year-old life "saved" as a result of Legal Age 21 is offset by the number of 21, 22, or 23 year-old lives lost The number of drunken driving fatalities tracks almost exactly, up or down, with the size of an age segment. Although alcohol affects some brain functions more powerfully during adolescence, it affects other functions less powerfully during the same period.
  2. This is true when it comes to the minimum age for legally purchasing alcohol, often referred to as the drinking age. Only 2 out of every 1,000 instances of underage drinking result in arrest or citation.
  3. And once the federal government finally repeals marijuana prohibition, it would be wise to let states continue setting their own ages, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all, top-down approach -- we've already tried that with alcohol, and it clearly isn't working. Twenty years have passed, during which time data have been gathered and the practical effects of the law have been experienced.
  4. Each state sets its own policy on the legal age to drink and, once prohibition ended in 1933, most states adopted 21 and kept this policy until the 1960s. Twice as many 21 year olds as 18 year-olds were involved in alcohol-related traffic fatalities in that year.
  5. But strangely at 18, one cannot buy a beer.

Researchers concluded that drinking age policies were significant predictors of alcohol consumption. This is timely in light of the Amethyst Initiativewhich flatly states that "[t]wenty-one is not working" and wants to rethink it in light of the "culture of binge drinking.

State policies since the 1960s

Drinking and driving National roadside breath surveys of nighttime drivers on weekends reveal a 74 percent decline in driving with blood alcohol concentrations BACs of 0.

This is a much bigger decline than in older age groups, which weren't affected when drinking age laws were changed during the 1970-80s.

Crash deaths The major benefit of raising the drinking age has been to prevent deaths in motor vehicle crashes. Among fatally injured drivers 16-20 years old, the percentage with positive BACs declined from 61 in 1982 to 31 in 1995. This was a bigger decline than in older age groups. Even more persuasive evidence of the benefits of 21 is supplied by studies designed specifically to gauge the effects of drinking age changes among states.

For example, a 1975 Institute study showed that lowering the drinking age to 18 in 2 U. Percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs at or above 0. The decline was much larger for drivers younger than 21, the group most affected by 21 drinking age laws.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says these laws have saved almost 900 lives per year during each of the past 5 years among people of all ages. Conversely, studies published by the Institute and others in 1983 found reductions in crashes among young drivers who were affected by states' reinstatement of 21.

A wealth of studies since then confirms the lifesaving benefits of 21 as the minimum drinking age. For example, in 1999 New Zealand lowered the drinking age from 20 to 18. A study published during 2006 reported that crash injury rates among us legal drinking age set to 21 lowers death rate year-old boys were 12 percent higher than expected after the policy change, based on comparisons with 20-24 year-olds.

The relative increase was even larger for 18-19 year-old girls, at 51 percent, and higher injury rates also were observed for 15-17 year-olds. Crashes increased when drinking ages were lowered and declined when the ages went up. The effects were consistent during follow-up time periods ranging from 7 months to 9 years. Nationwide Insurance polled adults earlier this year.

Some of the results: Seventy-nine percent said teen drinking contributes to drunk driving crashes. Three of 4 said enforcement of underage drinking laws should increase. Almost 4 of 5 disagreed with lowering the 21 drinking age to 18.

Age 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age

More evidence comes from a review of 57 studies by University of Minnesota researchers. This review, published in 2002, found older drinking ages associated with lower crash rates.

Raising it saves lives. Too many scientific studies with too many consistent findings have been published to conclude otherwise. This finding is based on studies that found an average reduction of 13 percent in fatal crashes involving drivers 18-20 years old when drinking ages were raised.