With the introduction of legislature to lower the drinking age in CA and MN, it’s time that this country rationally looks at the national drinking age. Since South Dakota v. Dole in 1987, federal courts have upheld the constitutionality of withholding federal funding from states that do not adhere to the national drinking age. However, the threat of the federal government should not limit political progress at a local level. Lowering the drinking age has social implications beyond just allowing 18 year olds to drink legally. America uses teenage drunk driving to argue the national age, but the pervasiveness of fake IDs already promotes an environment where underage drinking is expected. The discrepancy between the age of college students and the legal drinking age also perpetuates a culture of secretive binge drinking, encouraging irresponsible behavior. Furthermore, with the growing national attention on university sexual assault cases, Americans must not overlook alcohol’s frequent role in these awful situations. It is time to have drinking laws reflect current regional sentiments instead of the national positions of the 70s and 80s.
Proponents of the current drinking age constantly use underage drinking and driving as the main argument for maintaining the national age. However, with an increasing amount of Americans living in urban areas, it is unfair to use drunk driving paranoia to maintain a national drinking laws. Its asinine to say that an 18-year-old should not be able to drink in a major city because there is an 18-year-old in a suburb who relies on driving. Local governments should be able to pass drinking laws that reflect the attitudes of their constituents, and preserving a national drinking age merely prevents politicians from rationally looking at regional drinking ages.
The national drinking age also perpetuates irresponsible alcohol habits through its misalignment with the social reality. When college students show up for their freshman year, they must often complete some sort of alcohol education course. The university expects that the students will be engaging in underage drinking, but the law expects that students will not. Some schools, like the Claremont Colleges, have instituted “red cup” policies where students may drink openly out of red cups as long as their room door is open, but these strategies are rare.
Most schools seek a punitive approach to underage drinking and drinking in open areas, a practice intended to “keep students from consuming alcohol.” In reality, this practice simply confines underage drinkers to locked dorm rooms and off campus houses, where adult supervision is absent and hard alcohol is abundant. Since many Freshman, Sophomores, and Juniors cannot drink legally, binge drinking hard alcohol becomes a de-facto strategy for going to events, resulting in accidents.