Nationwide, the legal drinking age remains at 21, despite a high number of high school and college students who ignore state laws. Some argue that limiting access to alcohol can be repressive, leading to over-consumption, binge-drinking, accidents and other alcohol-related deaths – particularly those caused by DUI. The argument continues that by reducing the drinking age to 18 in the U.S., as it is in most European countries, we could significantly reduce the number of alcohol-related injuries and car accidents.
However, new evidence published by Boston University and highlighted in an Alabama Public Radio segment indicates that keeping the legal drinking age at 21 reduces drunk driving crashes and underage drinking. Our Birmingham DUI defense attorneys are committed to providing informed and aggressive defense to individuals charged with DUI. We also stay abreast of trends in Alabama and nationwide that could impact drinking laws and DUI liability.
The findings were published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs and make a strong case for keeping the legal age at 21. Using federal and state data, the researchers claim that a lower drinking age does not reduce drinking and driving related accidents or underage drinking. According to the reports, keeping the drinking age at 21 prevents DUI and other criminal offenses related to underage consumption. More importantly prevents untimely death related to alcohol.
Alabama is one state that has reviewed the possibility of lowering the drinking age for minors. Authors of the study urge legislators to keep a 21-year-old drinking limit to prevent serious and dangerous consequences for minors. Even when comparing drinking habits to other countries, the study found a detrimental effect. For example, New Zealand lowered its legal drinking age to 18 in 1999. Since then, several studies have found a spike in alcohol-related crimes and increased drinking habits among those under 18.
One of the reasons that lowering the drinking age has been suggested is because the law is largely ignored. Throughout Alabama and nationwide, teenagers and college students continue to be arrested and charged with DUI and underage drinking. These arrests and convictions can have a long-lasting impact on their education and their future. Beyond the fines and license loss, it could mean the loss of a job, the loss of a scholarship and a permanent criminal record that could serve as a hindrance to future employment. And yet, these studies tout the “none for under 21” laws as having a “protective effect.”
Juveniles who are arrested and charged with drinking-related crimes, including DUI, can face serious and lasting penalties.Without experienced advocacy, a DUI defendant could also be over-penalized or overcharged, especially if the DUI involved an accident, injury, or property damage. Unfortunately, college students and other youth are especially vulnerable to aggressive prosecution because they may have difficulty paying private attorney’s fees and they are hesitant to ask their parents for help. What many fail to overlook is that parents want what is best for their future. They may not be thrilled with a lapse in judgment, but they don’t want their child to suffer severe and life-long consequences as a result.
The national minimum drinking age was established in 1984 after law penalized states that allowed anyone younger than 21 to buy alcohol. Even though young people may seem to ignore underage drinking laws, there is evidence to suggest that, at least for some, they do serve as a deterrent.
In light of these findings and others like it, it’s unlikely that legislators in Alabama – or elsewhere in the country – will alter the drinking age any time soon.