Leah: Should the legal drinking age be lowered to 18?

Leah Ulatowski, Editor-in-Chief

Today, young people are determined to eschew adulthood for as long as possible. After all, it is unheard of for anyone to consider marriage before the age of 30; however, it’s perfectly normal for helicopter parents to accompany twentysomethings on job interviews or to let them live in the basement until the age of 40. Yet, this generation of Neverland boys and girls cannot assert their “maturity” enough when it comes to lowering the legal age of anything, especially drinking.

Our generation wants all of the perks of adulthood without any of the responsibility. A few years ago, when people still left the home, married and worked at the age of 18, I could understand lowering the drinking age. In fact, I would still advocate making an exception for underage married couples and military personnel, but for the average 18-year-old freshman who needs a success coach to remind him or her to attend class, adulthood is not a reality yet.

We need to stop referring to prohibition every time a certain law is broken more often than others. Everyone has gone over the speed limit at some point, yet we don’t just say, “Welp, better scrap that law because, you know, prohibition.” Why? We agree that the road would be a much deadlier place without it, and we need to think the same way about the drinking age.

Yes, we all know someone under 21 who got wasted at a party, but overall, the drinking age is reinforced by establishments and has definitely made a difference.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there is a correlation between higher legal drinking ages and lower rates of traffic accidents. Additionally, they estimate that raising the drinking age to 21 decreased the number of fatal traffic accidents for 18-to-20 year olds by 13 percent, saving approximately 27,052 lives from 1975-2008. How could anyone prioritize having a little “fun” over saving lives?

Advocates for lowering the drinking age have the naïve idea that teens will use the opportunity to drink safely in the presence of mom and pop, but let’s be real. They are going to use it to drink in the same sketchy frat house basements and clubs that they do now—only more easily, frequently and excessively, possibly increasing the risk of sexual assault or drunk driving.

If parents and teens want to drink together one-on-one, they can do that now in the privacy of their own homes. I’ve occasionally shared my parents’ wine samples and know underage guys who enjoy a beer with their dads on game days, and guess what? A SWAT team didn’t break down the door and shoot everyone. The drinking age doesn’t interfere with those innocent moments, but it does stop stupid kids from making life-altering mistakes when parents aren’t around.

While the difference between 18 and 21 can appear so minimal in writing, I am a different person now—at 20—than I was in my late teens.

At 18 years old, I was obsessed with my looks. After some college, I care more about studying. I would have dated any boy that asked me out—luckily, guys didn’t start approaching until recently, by which time I decided on courting (marriage-minded dating) as opposed to dating. Those are big changes in thinking, and I’m a year shy of 21.

In the end, it comes down to peer pressure. Sometimes, for more teens than most people realize, it really helps to have an excuse—especially a legal one—to abstain from something you don’t feel prepared for, such as sex or drinking, and it is actually frustrating to have adults say “you’re going to do it anyway” and proceed to provide the bed and keg.

While I like to pride myself in being mature for my age, I was admittedly not as mature at 18 as individuals in past decades. I wouldn’t have wanted to have access to something that would have disoriented my thinking before I even learned to truly think for myself.