This month, a ballot initiative was proposed, which would lower the minimum drinking age in California to 18, allowing 18- to 20-year-olds to legally purchase and consume alcohol.
To fully understand this initiative, it’s important to know the origins of the national drinking age of 21. According to the 21st Amendment, states have the power to set their own drinking ages. However, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 required states to set their drinking ages at 21 or higher or else they would lose 10 percent of state highway funds, which was millions of dollars. Not wanting to lose money, all states have set their drinking ages at 21.
If this initiative passes, California would be the only state with a drinking age of 18, which means that young adults from neighboring states would come to California for a night to drink and then would have to drive far distances to get home, most likely while intoxicated, leading to greater chances of car crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, there were only about 10,000 people killed in drunk driving crashes in 2013 compared to the roughly 25,000 in 1980.
“I do not think that California should lower the drinking age to 18. Research shows that lowering the age in the U.S. may lead to higher dropout rates for high school students as well as lower educational attainment and higher substance abuse in young adults. It also affects a teenager’s developing brain,” said Celeste Smiley, psychology teacher.
Those advocating for the initiative argue it’s unjust that 18-year-olds are considered adults with the right to vote and the abilities to be drafted and serve on a jury, but are unable to drink. Advocates also note that if 18- to 20-years old could drink alcohol legally, drinking would be safer because it would happen out in the open instead of in basement binge-drinking parties.
“People under 21, especially college kids, drink anyway, so I don’t think it would change that much except for the fact that they wouldn’t have to hide it which would probably make campuses safer,” said Margaret Quaid, senior.
California should maintain its drinking age of 21 because ultimately the reduction of the age to 18 would cause more complications than its worth. The state would lose hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding for state highways, and the age change could be detrimental to the health of many Americans would start drinking at an earlier age. Health classes that properly teach people the effects of alcohol and reasonable amounts to consume at one time should be implemented in schools. This way, some students may be deterred from drinking early or those that will inevitably partake in drinking before the age of 21 will be educated on how to do so properly.