Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Drinking Age discussion

I can't say that I'm completely surprised to see a push to lower the drinking age; on the whole, it's embarrassingly ineffective and all sides know this. But I am a bit surprised to see who's making the push: College and University presidents.


- MADD is in this piece saying that lowering the drinking age would lead to more drunk driving accidents. Clearly, this is speculation (though I believe it would be necessarily true if the law were followed with 100% efficacy). If we're going to assume that laws are followed perfectly, then increasing the driving age beyond the drinking age would have a similar (directional, not magnitude) effect, yet you don't see them arguing for that...

- I started to write that the college presidents are implicitly describing the unintended consequences of a higher drinking age, but they came right out and said it:

Duke President Richard Brodhead declined an interview request. But he wrote in a statement on the Amethyst Initiative's Web site that the 21-year-old drinking age "pushes drinking into hiding, heightening its risks." It also prevents school officials "from addressing drinking with students as an issue of responsible choice."

But the statement makes clear the signers think the current law isn't working, citing a "culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking..."

If you've got a fixed amount of drunkenness to be had in a semester, fewer, more intense drinking episodes is risk-minimizing with respect to getting caught. It's not risk-minimizing for the short-term health of the student. So that's the tradeoff.


Steamboat Lion said...

Have a look at the experience in Australia. Because drinking is legal for 18 year olds they are able to focus on messages around responsible consumption and avoiding drunk driving. I believe the data will show that it works better than telling people who are in all other respects adults they can't drink.

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