The lowest legal age to drink alcohol in all 50 states is 21. This was not always the law. In fact in the early 80’s most 18 year olds could drink in most states. Laws were passed to lower the drinking age, in part, to reduce the carnage on our highways related to teens drinking and driving. Not surprisingly, the rate of teen driving deaths from car accidents involving intoxication has been reduced since the increase in the drinking age.
What is surprising is that certain groups are advocating for a reduction in the drinking age back down to 18. No this is not the liquor lobby or the funeral industry advocating the move back to 18. One of the groups urging change is called Choose Responsibility. This group was started by John McCardell, the former president of Vermont’s Middlebury College. The apparent argument behind the change is that the higher drinking age results in teenage binge drinking with dangerous habits that did not exist to that extent before the hike in the drinking age. Now, I was a college student back in the day of the 18 year old drinking age. Not that I necessarily participated, but I certainly witnessed binge drinking. Lots of it.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration puts the lives saved at 25,000 because of the higher drinking age. I doubt that the number of increased deaths (if any) from binge drinking even approaches that number. Until we get some hard data my guess is that 18 year olds will not be able to drink for a while in this country.