Should the alcoholic drinking age be increased or decreased?

In the US, a person must be 21 to drink alcohol. Facebook is full of pictures of alcohol-fuelled college parties, and university students are notorious drinkers. It is clear that the US drinking age is not working. The LA Times believes that the US is getting the same results it got during the prohibition of alcohol in the early 20th century – fewer young people are drinking, but when they do, they drink in excess.

In the UK, where the legal drinking age is 18, young people at university are able to drink in bars and clubs, in a more controlled environment. In the US the case is different – illegal drinking at university is uncontrolled and promotes the rapid consumption of large amounts of alcohol, such as in drinking games.

It is a well-known fact that alcohol plays a large part in crime. According to RAINN, 30% of rapes take place when the perpetrator is drunk, and the average age of a rapist is 31.2 It is clear that the legal drinking age is not a factor here. Statistics of people arrested for driving under the influence, however, paint a very different picture. Although drink driving accidents occur among all age groups, the group it is most prominent in is young men between the ages of 20 and 24.3 But the latter statistics do not prove that the drinking age should be increased; instead, they point to a need for greater education and awareness of the impact of driving under the influence. Raising the legal drinking age will not stop violent crime, and would probably see only a very slight decrease.

An 18-year old citizen of the US is legally able to have children, die for his/her country, vote, drive a car and own a gun, yet he/she is not able to drink alcohol. The drinking age should be lowered to 18 to match other Western countries. Awareness of the impact alcohol can have on a person needs to be increased, not the drinking age.

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