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Aw, and I'm turning 21 in three months!
August 19, 2008 5:45 AM   Subscribe

A group of 100 college presidents has come together to state that the 21 year-old drinking age is not working, and, specifically, that it has created a culture of dangerous binge drinking on their campuses. They want to encourage a dialogue about lowering the drinking age. They face opposition from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and from other college presidents, who accuse them of 'not wanting to deal with the problem'.
posted by showbiz_liz (169 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting but completely futile. In terms of effectiveness, it might as well be 100 9th grade class presidents coming together to state that parents just don't understand.
posted by Damn That Television at 5:52 AM on August 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


My favorite part, from another article on the topic:

"It gives me great pause to think of sending thousands of students onto a campus where the person who is most accountable doesn't seem to be devoted to ensuring their health and safety," [Executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving for Maryland and Delaware, Caroline] Cash said.

Why yes, that makes perfect sense.
posted by cmonkey at 5:52 AM on August 19, 2008


I don't know, Damn That Television- these aren't student presidents we're talking about here, they're distinguished academics.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:54 AM on August 19, 2008


But won't SOMEBODY please THINK of the CHILDREN??!?!!!?!?!!?!?!?!??!!!!?!?!?!????!?!?slash!!one!!eleven??s///
posted by kcds at 5:55 AM on August 19, 2008


I was 17 for the first couple months of college, and I drank. College students will find a way to drink no matter their age. And college presidents will find a way to have all-expense-paid, luxurious resort, golf and tennis filled, conferences and meetings to ostensibly discuss topics they have no control over, while binge drinking.
posted by netbros at 5:58 AM on August 19, 2008


It seems to me that if you're old enough to be drafted to die for your country and old enough to (ab)use one substance (tobacco) then you should be free to (ab)use the other.

It's unfortunate, but MADD has turned into something of a rabid cult over the last 20 years. If anyone dares to even question their doctrine then that person is immediately labeled as evil. There's no willingness to even open a dialogue about the issue.

If parents have a problem with something their children might be exposed to in society, why not sit down and talk to their children and educate their children about the issue rather than legislate it so they don't have to talk to their kids at all.

That's the real problem: parents just don't talk to their kids. And it's not always the parents fault, I get that both parents have to work nowadays because everything is so expensive, but even so if it's important then you make the time.
posted by ruthsarian at 5:59 AM on August 19, 2008 [29 favorites]


I think this is one of those situations where a government is trying to do something that parents should be doing. It never failed - every year I was in college, the freshman floor of one of our dorms would have 5 people admitted to the hospital in one night for alcohol poisoning.

If you make alcohol an enticing forbidden fruit, kids will overindulge the second their parents turn their backs. I was allowed to drink (a little bit) at holiday dinners and other family parties and I have never gotten into a car while drunk, or been admitted to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. And I drank responsibly at college before I turned 21.

On preview: what ruthsarian said.

I don't think cities with good public transportation have much to worry about, regarding drunk teen drivers. The only reason I'm personally against lowering the age is 21+ concerts have slightly fewer obnoxious people.
posted by giraffe at 6:05 AM on August 19, 2008


They face opposition from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and from other college presidents, who accuse them of 'not wanting to deal with the problem'.

How about MADD, instead of working against drinking, works against driving? This would have the added benefit of improving safety for everyone (i.e. even without the drinking, younger drivers are less safe than average) AND removing cars from the road.

Or do they not want to deal with the problem?
posted by DU at 6:07 AM on August 19, 2008 [30 favorites]


The key argument is: Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer.

That's because MADD is a religious wacko organisation and you can't have this type of rational discussions with them. And who can really blame them. After all, once the lambs begin to drink, they will start smoking pot and fornicate. And then they will kill their unborn babbys.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:09 AM on August 19, 2008 [12 favorites]


I've always found the fact America's drinking age is so high as pretty arbitrary. I mean, if you are old enough to shoot people with assault rifles and watch your buddies bet blown up, you should be old enough to buy a bottle of gin and drink your post-traumatic stress disorder away.
posted by chunking express at 6:11 AM on August 19, 2008 [10 favorites]


I agree with lowering the age. The earlier American college students learn to handle their sauce before traveling abroad and make complete asses of themselves by passing out in a puddle of their own piss and puke, the better. Seriously, brah. Reel it in.

Some of my conversations with my fellow countrymen have been like this...

Dude, You live in Germany? Fucking awesome! Dude, you can drink all the time there! Man, I was there for Oktoberfest and I was soooo wasted. Ha ha, we did take a day off though to see that Disney castle thing, but seriously, dude, my bro Mike, that's him over there, Yo Mike!! I was just telling this dude about how we were wasted at Oktoberfest! He lives in Germany! (Mike: Awesome, I was sooo wasted!) Anyway, he was fucking hammered and we had to get him out of the German jail because he got arrested for pissing in some fountain....

European Laws Place Emphasis On the Driving, Not the Drinking.
Also interesting.
posted by chillmost at 6:14 AM on August 19, 2008 [11 favorites]


You know, my dear old Dad got me drunk for the first time when I was, oh, about thirteen. It was at a New Year's Party, and we walked home together singing. Around the house, I could have a glass of wine or a beer with meals (or indeed, just hanging watching a movie) from about the same age. I did a lot of partying in my last few years of school, mainly with the youth theatre group I was part of. I had a great time, but I knew my limits and knew what not to mix, and when to stop, because I'd learned in a safe, controlled environment, not down the park at one in the morning with a bottle of cheap cider.

When I got to university, I met a lot of people who had grown up in similar environments to me, and we had a rare old time. I also met a large number of people from strict home environments who went apeshit at the sudden absence of parental control. And the American kids who were over for an exchange year - about 80% of them were drink-til-you-puke binge drinkers, complete with whooping. They couldn't get over being 19 or 20 and being legally allowed to drink, plus the relatively strong European beers and so on they could get here slayed them. Messy, to say the least.

I have never understood the 21 law. I'm ID'd everywhere I go when I'm in the US, despite being very clearly in the latter half of my twenties. But it seems the explosive shedding of inhibitions, restraint and control I've seen in American college kids is the very opposite of safe, responsible drinking.

But then, I'm from Britain, which the media tells us is a cesspool of under-age drinking, violence and broken lives, so clearly we've got it wrong too.

Or maybe there's just something at the root of Anglo culture that means we'll never attain the fabled cafe culture.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:15 AM on August 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


The drinking age in Quebec is 18 and, as the joke goes, it's only a suggestion. I have never heard anyone here say that 18 is too young, to me 21 is just plain ridiculous.
posted by Vindaloo at 6:15 AM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Why does it seem like Mothers Against Drunk Driving is actually against drinking entirely? The 21 year old drinking age may have reduced road deaths long ago, but I think there is a real culture of not driving after drinking these days. At least thats the way it seems.

Of course, what we need are driver less cars, so people can travel after drinking without increasing accident risk.
posted by delmoi at 6:18 AM on August 19, 2008


MADD has been more about "against drinking" for a long time. I remember going to a MADD sponsored lock-in 18 years ago where, before we were allowed to run around and have fun, we were corralled into one area to hear presentations on the evils, not of drunk driving, but of alcohol, period. Actually, that was *reported* as the topic of the presentation - we didn't hear the presentations because we were hiding in the drop ceiling of the restroom, drinking from our smuggled flasks.
posted by notsnot at 6:20 AM on August 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


I would think that most countries struggle with enforcing 18 as a legal drinking age. To me it seems a laughable proposition to have it set at 21. You would be laughed at in Australia if you suggested it. However, I think binge drinking is culture not age-specific. I can't say that I don't binge drink on occasion!
posted by Onanist at 6:20 AM on August 19, 2008


As a guy who moved from Toronto to LA when he was 20, I concur, 21 as the drinking age is insane. It does lead to binge drinking, but aside from that it's just silly and unfair.
posted by autodidact at 6:22 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


We should try making the drinking age 18 for those with a high school diploma or equivalent, and 21 otherwise. I'd also add an exemption for anyone in the military.
posted by fings at 6:23 AM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Regarding age limits on certain things, I always thought it was ridiculous that a 14-year-old can go to trial and be charged as an adult, but he can't vote for another four years. Way more ridiculous than not being able to drink until 21.
posted by giraffe at 6:24 AM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Change the legal drinking age to 16 and the legal driving age to 18.
posted by liquorice at 6:24 AM on August 19, 2008 [74 favorites]


I've noticed some interesting trends among my peers (who are all now in their early 20s, but it also held true in college). Most of the people I talk to about drinking generally find two drinking-related activities to be Bad Things - drinking multiple nights in a row and drinking alone.

The reason for this, it seems, is that to most of them "drinking" means "getting hammered". Moderation simply relates to the frequency you get drunk. According to these beliefs, then, I must drink pretty excessively.

I will have a beer with dinner. I eat alone most nights. Is that worse than teetotalling during the week and getting wasted on the weekends? Do these perceptions have anything to do with the drinking age?

Anyway, I guess my point is that my generation has grown up believing that drinking must be an all-or-nothing thing, which seems to be a much bigger issue than whether they're 18 or 25.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:25 AM on August 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


Choose Responsibility is the group organizing the Amethyst Initiative.
posted by andythebean at 6:30 AM on August 19, 2008


The fools. When will they learn that the only permissible answer to any behavioral issue is harsher punishments?
posted by tyllwin at 6:31 AM on August 19, 2008 [8 favorites]


MADD was on the radio the other day calling for checkpoints on all the roads to look for tipsy drivers. Your papers, comrade.
posted by echo target at 6:31 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Religion and make-believe, Prohibition? Nah, don't work and produce tons of damage.

Science ? Maybe, but we don't have to enlist Dawkins to show people the mess produced by abusing some substances.

Try showing rotten livers, have people who are going to die or are suffering tell their stories, show the _facts_ time and again. It doesn't have to be extra-scary, it is scary by itself.

Drunk driver ? Car gets locked for 6 months. Repeat offender? 1 year. Harmed of kill somebody? Licence revoked, if you get caught driving and not in an emergency situation, stiff fine and eventually prison.

Enlist psychology: binge drinking is not recreational, I seldom have seen an heavy drinker happy or just content.
posted by elpapacito at 6:33 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


...an exemption for anyone in the military.
This used to be the case for on-base bars... until MADD lobbied to have it changed. Except for bases within 50 miles of the Canadian or Mexican borders where the drinking age can be set to the drinking age across the border at the base commander's discretion.
posted by atrazine at 6:38 AM on August 19, 2008


There'd be a lot less drunk driving if you could get around in the US without a car. In my city, the bus routes only run until around midnight so even if you are drinking somewhere with bus service, if you stay out too late, someone has to drive you home. And don't even say "call a taxi" they're pretty much mythical around here.
posted by octothorpe at 6:41 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I should mention that "at the base commander's discretion" mostly translated to "never".
posted by atrazine at 6:42 AM on August 19, 2008


Lowering the drinking age will do nothing to stop the culture of binge drinking, which is based less on the fact that alcohol is forbidden and more on the fact that people are stupid.

However, lowering the drinking age may do a lot to reduce underage drunk driving, which in my experience even the stupidest college students can be smart enough to avoid, as long as it's possible to have parties within walking distance of their dorm rooms or to set up dorm->party shuttle service without worrying about getting busted.

Since I think suicide (even by alcohol poisoning) should be legal and murder (or vehicular manslaughter) shouldn't be, the binge drinking problem seems much less pressing than the drunk driving problem. Lower the drinking age.
posted by roystgnr at 6:42 AM on August 19, 2008


MADD also is pushing the idea that all cars should be equipped with those devices that you have to blow in to to see if you're sober. Not just people convicted of DWI. Everyone. What a bunch of assholes.
posted by etaoin at 6:42 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


echo target: "MADD was on the radio the other day calling for checkpoints on all the roads to look for tipsy drivers. Your papers, comrade."

Huh, those have been around for at least twenty-five years. They usually set them up during holiday weekends.
posted by octothorpe at 6:44 AM on August 19, 2008


@fings

Is there a reason for that limit, other than to punish adults who don't have a highschool diploma?
posted by Phalene at 6:44 AM on August 19, 2008


What bullshit! not by chance that a batch of college presidents but not political figures or citizens want this change. Lower the drinking age and the college(s) no longer legally responsible for what troubles the students might get into...the college can not be sued because the drinking was legal.

What the drinking age ought to be is, for me, a separate issue and I note here only the self-interest of these presidents.
posted by Postroad at 6:44 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


There'd be a lot less drunk driving if you could get around in the US without a car. In my city, the bus routes only run until around midnight so even if you are drinking somewhere with bus service, if you stay out too late, someone has to drive you home. And don't even say "call a taxi" they're pretty much mythical around here.

Not to mention American zoning laws often keep bars out of residential areas.
posted by atrazine at 6:45 AM on August 19, 2008


There'd be a lot less drunk driving if you could get around in the US without a car.

OTOH, this story is about college campuses, which are generally the best places to get around without a car.
posted by smackfu at 6:46 AM on August 19, 2008


All control ever does is push consumption into uncontrolled areas rather than stop it happening - it's like the war on drugs. Legalise younger drinking and you can control it. The law in the UK is actually that you can drink at 5 - so long as there's parental supervision. The law states that buying or consuming alcohol in a pub is legal at 18.
posted by treblekicker at 6:48 AM on August 19, 2008


At some point in time, although I highly doubt it, people will begin to realize that alcohol is a mind-altering drug that affects peoples' brains in a wide variety of manners, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. It just feels too good. Just like religion.
posted by jsavimbi at 6:51 AM on August 19, 2008


> Why does it seem like Mothers Against Drunk Driving is actually against drinking entirely?

A while back (more than a year or so) I read an article by one of the founders -- perhaps the founder, although I'm not sure -- of MADD, who stepped away from the organization because it had become too "neo-Prohibitionist."

That's really what they are; they're the direct spiritual descendants of the Brides of Temperance, tilting at demon liquor at the expense of anything that gets in their way.

I don't think they necessarily started off this way, or had to be this way. Campaigning against drunk driving is worthy, and laudable. Campaigning against drinking, which seems to be their wont now, isn't.

This is one article concerning MADD's founder, Candy Lightner, separating herself from the group because it's gone off the rails. Searching Google turns up quite a few similar articles; I'm not vouching for this one as a source in particular.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:53 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


it has created a culture of dangerous binge drinking

I don't think there's a causal relationship. American culture and youth culture encourages binge drinking, especially on college campuses; furthermore, it almost always has. Historically, it's not hard to find incidents of dangerously excessive drinking in groups by young people in age-segregated environments (the military, colleges) reported through the ages, but especially post-Civil War.

The reason it may seem more prevalent today is that more people are in college today than ever before in the history of the country. More people are in those age-segregated environments, away from a larger community context, with an astonishingly large amount of free time and a fair amount of money. Conditions of that scale have not really existed before. Until the 1960s, college was an experience available to a smaller and more elite pool of Americans, and those folks have always been able to reduce the impact of consequences resulting from their behaviors. That drinking ages were raised beginning mostly in the '80s because of increased death and damage is probably related closely to the simple fact of a near-exponential increase in the college population, which created a large increase in the number of binge drinking and unsafe driving incidents. Not to mention, hm, more young people have access to cars and use them than they did pre-1970, and more people are located outside of urban centers where they can rely on public transport.

That's not to say I don't think this is an important public safety matter. It is. Since the laws appear to be pretty effective at saving lives, I'd hesitate to throw them out with the bathwater based only on the desire of people to drink legally. For consistency's sake, I would support returning the federally stipulated age of majority, draft age and voting age to 21, where they were before the Vietnam War.

I also think these decisions need to be made with careful attention to independence. When you ask yourself who has the strongest vested interest in legal drinking from age 18 on, it's not college presidents, MADD, parents, or even young people themselves. It's corporations selling alcohol.
posted by Miko at 6:56 AM on August 19, 2008 [9 favorites]


I'm of the magic age where I remember when you were allowed to start drinking at 18. I was the last year and grandfathered in, which meant that some of my friends got to drink for two or three days and then, boom, another year without. That made so very much sense and you know, it completely altered their behavior. And making the ones who were dumb enough to be born six months after me and subsequently got caught with something horrific like a can of beer pay huge fines and do community service was really intelligent as well.

In South Carolina then you could drink beer and wine at 18, liquor at 21. Hell, you could even buy beer in the student center at the College of Charleston and once a year the College threw us a Bull Bash with kegs of Schlitz Malt Liquor and the Dixie Dregs playing. So the new generation has not exactly invented binge drinking: the only real difference I see is that they're much more responsible about drunk driving than we were. However, be real and don't forget to follow the money: they're supporting the state with the aforementioned huge fines. There's a whole lucrative industry based on busting teenagers with alcohol.

I have kids and I still support lowering the drinking age. If people are considered old enough to get married, have a child, go to war, vote, smoke cigarettes and go to jail than they're old enough to have a drink. When my daughter turned 18 she said, "Hey, I could get married but I don't even have a boyfriend. I could vote, but it's not an election year. I could join the army, but I'd rather not. I could be executed for murder but I'm not going to kill anyone. So, huh, 18. Guess I'll go buy some cigarettes." Great rite of passage, there.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:57 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why does it seem like Mothers Against Drunk Driving is actually against drinking entirely?

Probably because some of its members are. It makes perfect sense that such vice-reduction campaigns attract absolutists too (similar to the way some anti-public-smoking advocates would like to eliminate all smoking and some anti-abortion-rights activists are against all non-procreative sex).
posted by aught at 6:57 AM on August 19, 2008


MADD also is pushing the idea that all cars should be equipped with those devices that you have to blow in to to see if you're sober. Not just people convicted of DWI. Everyone. What a bunch of assholes.

Have they addressed the issue of people whose breath tests positive when they haven't been drinking? Specifically, diabetics.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 6:59 AM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


OTOH, this story is about college campuses, which are generally the best places to get around without a car.

Seems like this should be true, but (speaking as a resident of a small city with a major university and a large college) it seems as if a large proportion of students have cars nonetheless and drive them at every possible opportunity.
posted by aught at 7:01 AM on August 19, 2008


Is there a reason for that limit, other than to punish adults who don't have a highschool diploma?

My highschool sent me a wallet sized mini diploma along with my full sized high school diploma, and that law would finally make those things useful.

But yeah I think the main point is to punish poor people.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:02 AM on August 19, 2008


We should be emphasizing to our young people that buying domestically is the responsible thing to do when purchasing alcohol (which makes it difficult when someone older is still getting fascist Stoly or conquered Budweiser for them out of habit).
posted by Brian B. at 7:08 AM on August 19, 2008


I think that university presidents could do quite a bit to change drinking culture on campus. Current drinking laws put many campuses in the position of maintaining an official but futile "dry campus" policy. With parties as clandestine affairs, you have a situation where criminally bad behavior or accidents are handled in a bad way. Bars have a number of advantages in this regard: they can deny service to people who have had too much, professional security for dealing with disruptive patrons, and police a short call away.

An alternative way of dealing with it is to say, "ok, you want a wet party on campus? Here is a list of campus police officers who can work as bouncers off-duty. Expect an on-duty officer to drop in every few hours, especially around closing. Have a strict designated driver rule, and have fun." Legalizing and regulating could curb many problems.

Postroad: What bullshit! not by chance that a batch of college presidents but not political figures or citizens want this change. Lower the drinking age and the college(s) no longer legally responsible for what troubles the students might get into...the college can not be sued because the drinking was legal.

I don't see how that follows because existing drinking establishments are still liable for injury or victimization due to negligence.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:09 AM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


There was lots of bing drinking back when the legal age was 18. It started at about age 16.
posted by Allen3 at 7:10 AM on August 19, 2008


I think it's high time to take a serious look at US policy on drinking in particular and controlled substances in general. The drinking age prohibition is not working, it is not producing anything positive in this country. It may even be contributing to dangerous behavior like driving to some remote location to drink secretly, necessitating a boozed-up drive home.

I say, let them drink at age 18–they are anyway–and stiffen enforcement and penalties for DWI.
posted by Mister_A at 7:13 AM on August 19, 2008


The part I most emphatically agree with is that it does huge damage to people's respect for the law when their first, and for years only perception of law enforcement is "something to dodge around so we can drink like we all do." Drinking is so totally ubiquitous on nearly every college campus that the law, rather than being respected, becomes a farce.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:13 AM on August 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


Lower the drinking age to sixteen, and raise the driving age to 19. Give kids time to learn how to drink responsibly, and time to mature in order to drive like they have half a brain.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:15 AM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm torn about MADD.

1) There was a very real problem with drunk drivers repeatedly killing people and walking away. When it's your child that's killed, I can certainly understand the anger.

2) There are still too many drunk drivers -- because the one place I agree with MADD is that the correct number of intoxicated drivers on the road at any given time is zero.

3) I'm possibly not rational about this, given that I've been to five funerals because someone who was drinking hit someone else and killed them. There's also the sixth, who I didn't know, but who I saw die.

4) In general, I hate MADD for the same reason I hate Critical Mass -- the absolute position they hold doesn't seem to actually help them with their stated goals.

5) I still see that poor guy being plowed by that SUV in my sleep.

6) I don't drink and drive. Period.

7) Neither should you. Period. There is no excuse.

8) But that's no excuse for being an autocrat.
posted by eriko at 7:17 AM on August 19, 2008 [13 favorites]


1) There was a very real problem with drunk drivers repeatedly killing people and walking away.

This is true, and I'm among those old enough to lend that historical perspective: growing up in the early 80s, it was not at all unusual to know someone from your school who had been killed because of drunk driving - either as the driver, as a passenger with the driver, or as a result of another vehicle with a drunk driver. My own 18-year-old cousin, driving drunk, caused an accident in which his girlfriend was killed. He remained in a coma for about ten years before dying. Another high school aquaintance of mine broke his neck diving into a pond drunk. There was really a very low level of literacy about the risks of drinking before the anti-drunk-driving campaigns in the 80s took off. The broader culture generally winked at excessive drinking and driving while drunk.

That's not to say that if we rolled back the drinking age we'd roll back the literacy level, too. But I think it helps to have some understanding of where the laws and organizations were coming from, and what they were acting in response to.
posted by Miko at 7:27 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that if you're old enough to be drafted to die for your country and old enough to (ab)use one substance (tobacco) then you should be free to (ab)use the other.

I agree, and would add that if you are old enough to be tried as an adult (ignoring that awful phenomenon on trying small children as adults that is becoming popular) you should be old enough to walk into a bar and order a beer.

So I want to push the drinking age down a few years, but at the same time intensify the crackdown on DWIs. Because 18 year old kids drinking a few beers isn't a crisis, but someone driving home after enjoying happy hour a little too much is.

I don't love getting stopped in those holiday DWI roadblocks, but I don't feel like its a sign of an incipient police state, either. And there are big loopholes in the system, too: if the police were allowed to simply breathalize each driver leaving the parking lot of my local bar on a given Friday night, they'd run out of holding cells in about fifteen minutes, for example.
posted by Forktine at 7:32 AM on August 19, 2008



Why does it seem like Mothers Against Drunk Driving is actually against drinking entirely?


It doesn't just seem like it, they actually are. At some point they turned from a reasonable organization of good people working for a laudable cause into a ridiculous organization of joyless, bible-thumping, prohibitionist teetotalers, like modern day Carrie Nations. Their founder actually severed ties with the organization because she no longer believes in what they stand for. They're basically a hair's breadth away from protesting funerals of people who die in alcohol-related accidents while carrying signs that read "GOD HATES MARTINIS" at this point. The problem is, many people don't realize this and still think of them as a reasonable anti-drunk driving organization (and with modern attitudes about drunk driving, being against it is a lot like being against, say, rape), much like a lot of people still think of PETA as a reasonable organization that just opposes things like fur and animal testing.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:33 AM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I really hate the "they do it because they are told not to" argument as an excuse to lower the drinking age. By that logic, we should make drunk driving legal because kids are going to do it anyway and making it legal makes it less enticing. Pretending that abandoning all forms of regulation instead of addressing reasonable regulation is a nowhere argument. Kids get drunk, and smoke weed, and eat junk food, and play video games, because they enjoy it, regardless of it's illegality.

Furthermore, I'm glad that a lot of college professors want to take a (no pun intended) more liberal stance on letting students drink, but that really doesn't effectively counter the statistical reality that a combination of proper regulation and increased financial cost of alcohol does lower underage drinking deaths.

I would wager that if you lower the drinking age from 21 to 18, you're just going to see a reduction of under-21 drinking deaths directly corollary to an increase in under-18 drinking deaths. Ignoring a utter dearth of proper (and honest) drug/alcohol awareness to youths in America will not alter this reality, and both MADD and the quasi-libertarians don't accept that from either of their extreme positions on this.

I don't think anyone should join the army, so I'll ignore that one, but I do agree that whatever the age, making the age of driving and drinking different is a bad idea. But I think needing to drive to a bar is a bad idea irregardless. Maybe that's why my friends at Dartmouth drank more than any human beings I've ever seen but never got into car accidents; because they couldn't fucking go anywhere.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:33 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm from Australia. I drank legally at 18, and illegally at 16.

When I was in America, I found it ridiculous that adults in every other sense would be treated as children when it came to alcohol. Reducing the age won't automatically make everyone behave themselves, but it will at least let adults make their own choices.

Drink driving doesn't happen because people drink. It happens because they make bad choices. Fix the decision making, not the drinking. Kids should drink with their parents, in the same way that they taste spicy food. How else do you expect them to learn their limits?

Is it ironic that I'm a tad sozzled as I write this? Or am I proving my point? I didn't drive home, after all. That's what bike paths are for.
posted by twirlypen at 7:40 AM on August 19, 2008


A modest proposal: just ban the fucking poison and legalize weed.
posted by ND¢ at 7:41 AM on August 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


ok, you want a wet party on campus? Here is a list of campus police officers who can work as bouncers off-duty. Expect an on-duty officer to drop in every few hours, especially around closing. Have a strict designated driver rule, and have fun.

When I was in college and went to some frat parties, they all had on-site security/bouncers.

Also, the liability be too much for any U to officially condone drinking as you state.
posted by jmd82 at 7:43 AM on August 19, 2008


ND¢ for President!
posted by booticon at 7:44 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


To elaborate, I think it's less the age of legalization (have you ever spoken to a lifelong smoker that didn't start while they were a minor?), and more of the environment that the person grew up in, which these college presidents have little control over. I think the matter of the substance being abused has little to do with an arbitrary number. If alcohol is viewed as Bad Shit growing up, of course you're going to have a curiousity for it when you first go out on your own (for which a lot of kids, is when they go away to college), and unfortunately a lot of kids abuse it as an adult. I'm not saying that if you grow up in an environment of adults sipping on wine or a vodka & tonic and maybe take a sip and get a little woozy that you won't abuse it later on in life, though. Although like many other people here, I do agree that if you're able to go to war, you can have a goddamned drink.
posted by booticon at 7:50 AM on August 19, 2008


If alcohol is viewed as Bad Shit growing up, of course you're going to have a curiousity for it when you first go out on your own

People often say that, but I'm not sure that's the dynamic. Some people grow up in a way in which alcohol has a mystique, sure. But others grow up in environments where adults drink frequently, sometimes responsibly and sometimes not. Some grow up being allowed to drink in their parents' homes, or, as I saw in high school, being encouraged to have large parties and to drink at someone's home (parents providing the booze) because it was perceived as safer than heading off to a bonfire somewhere with no adults. People arrive in college having had all of these upbringings, and others. Rampant drinking in college occurs not because people arrive without being familiar with alcohol, and are lured by the forbidden-fruit aspect, but because the culture encourages it. Overall, our entire culture promotes alcohol as the most fun you can possibly have, and college as the time you can finally call your own shots. People respond to that cultural idea - that alcohol will allow you to have amazing amounts of 'adult' fun - and feel entitled to it, perhaps even socially pressured to engage in it, now that they are living with less supervision. On college campuses, I think it's the encouragement of a drinking culture, more than the drinking age, that is a problem.

Bring back 8 AM classes M-F and classes that meet 3-4 times a week, abolish grade inflation and the gentlemen's C, flunk out who you have to, and I'd wager drinking behaviors would mellow out.
posted by Miko at 7:59 AM on August 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


MADD also is pushing the idea that all cars should be equipped with those devices that you have to blow in to to see if you're sober. Not just people convicted of DWI. Everyone. What a bunch of assholes.

You know, is that really such a bad idea? That people have to ensure that they're safe to drive before being able to start a car?
posted by agregoli at 8:01 AM on August 19, 2008


agregoli: "MADD also is pushing the idea that all cars should be equipped with those devices that you have to blow in to to see if you're sober. Not just people convicted of DWI. Everyone. What a bunch of assholes.

You know, is that really such a bad idea? That people have to ensure that they're safe to drive before being able to start a car?
"

It's not that it's a bad idea, but unless there was some futuristic way to make sure the same person that was blowing would be the same person driving (grab a sober person off the street and say, "Could you blow my car over here?"), I don't think it would be very effective.
posted by booticon at 8:05 AM on August 19, 2008


The only rational solution is to set the legal age for drinking to be the same as the legal age for enlistment in the military. If a person is old enough to travel to exotic foreign places, meet exciting people, and kill them then they are bloody well old enough to drink.

However, reason has little to do with this, so I strongly suspect that we'll see the drinking age continuing to be 21 until the US has a dramatic cultural shift.

I'll point out that in many states (Texas among them) you can't legally enter a porn store until you're 21 either. Yup, killing people is fine at 18, but if you want a dildo wait until your older.
posted by sotonohito at 8:05 AM on August 19, 2008


Point taken Miko. I would probably have a better perspective if I went to a college with a dorm.
posted by booticon at 8:07 AM on August 19, 2008


"Could you blow my car over here?"

That would be a bit... socially unacceptable over here. Would you really get away with that in the US without someone calling the police?

(Not that I don't agree that the idea can be trivially worked around).
posted by Leon at 8:10 AM on August 19, 2008


Sure it can be worked around. But it would stop a LOT of people from driving.
posted by agregoli at 8:11 AM on August 19, 2008


MADD raises hysteria to a required moral virtue.
posted by LarryC at 8:12 AM on August 19, 2008


(Also, I know very little about MADD, but I'm a bit surprised by the hate-on towards them here).
posted by agregoli at 8:18 AM on August 19, 2008


agregoli: "Sure it can be worked around. But it would stop a LOT of people from driving."

Have there been any studies? I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to call you on your shit--okay, I am.
posted by booticon at 8:19 AM on August 19, 2008


I plan to introduce a petition to raise the driving age to 21 and the marrying age to 24.
posted by parmanparman at 8:20 AM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I have no idea if there are studies. But you can't see that it would stop people from driving drunk? The bar lets out, who is going to "test blow" your car? The bartender? Who else is sober around you? Maybe you find someone, maybe not, but especially in some rural areas, I don't see many opportunities to cheat this one. I'd much rather that people spend the night in their car instead of drive home and kill someone.

Yes, it can be gotten around, but if it stops a good portion, than maybe it's worth it. I think so, anyway.
posted by agregoli at 8:24 AM on August 19, 2008


I remember when I went to my freshman orientation, lo these many years ago, a stone-faced cop harangued us on the evils of underage drinking and how we would get caught; to make his point in a rather Miracle on 34th Street-esque fashion, he dumped a large cardboard box of confiscated fake IDs on the stage. He concluded his presentation by mentioning a student at MIT who had recently died in a fraternity hazing, choking on his own vomit after passing out; that's how dangerous drinking is.

Even at the time, I wondered why he couldn't say something like: Don't drink until you're 21, but if you do and your friend passes out, lay him on his side, not his stomach. Wouldn't some statement like that actually help prevent future deaths?
posted by Bromius at 8:26 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have no idea if there are studies. But you can't see that it would stop people from driving drunk?

Because assumed criminality in your citizens has always gone down so, so well. People would just buy older or foreign cars, because the vast majority of people in the US (and indeed anywhere where governments are voted in and out by the people peacefully) really don't like being told they have to prove they aren't drunk before they can start their car.

The answer isn't moon-logic, easily circumvented (because seriously, in the age of the web any wheel lock would be cracked in minutes) physical controls, its in education and enforcement.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:31 AM on August 19, 2008


I drank with my friends way back when I was 17 & 18. No problem. All we had to do was pile into a car and head to the Mexican border. Park. Walk into another country. Hail a scary cab, say "Revolución, por favor" and then hold on tight. Upon arrival, we and a zillion other illegal drinkers would proceed to go from bar to dance club to bar. Yeah sure, some kids got arrested by Federales, mugged or molested during their drunken travels but fortunately roofies hadn't yet been invented so at least we didn't have to worry about that. Then at the end of the night I would be the mother hen and round all of my friends together onto one street corner. Generally had to pry my friend Carolyn off of whomever she suddenly decided was her soulmate boyfriend that night and drag her away as she'd holler, "Call me!" Then at this point, we would usually all partake in those nasty bacon-wrapped hot dogs that they sell on the street corners -- sure, they looked disgusting just hours before but suddenly we *had* to have one. (I still can't stand the smell of them... I see them being sold here in America sometimes and I have to cover my face.) Then we'd pile back into a scary cab and walk our way back across the border arm in arm, singing America the Beautiful at the top of our lungs and swearing we'd never go back to Mexico again. (Well, until a few weeks later when someone would say, "Hey. Let's go to Mexico" and we would.) We'd pass out in the car for a few hours and then I'd drive everyone home because I was always the most sober by far.

And then we turned 21. We tried going to TJ once or twice after that, but the magic was gone. We all agreed we were just waaaaaay too old for it. Tijuana was for kids.

Honestly, when I think back on it, I'm amazed nothing bad ever happened to me.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:31 AM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


unless there was some futuristic way to make sure the same person that was blowing would be the same person driving (grab a sober person off the street and say, "Could you blow my car over here?"), I don't think it would be very effective.

I think very few people would do something like that for a stranger if they expected a small but chance of being charged with accessory to homicide later.

I'm all for it, frankly. I'm all for freedom, but 40,000+ US deaths a year show that people are abusing those freedoms.

As for the drinking age, of course it should be younger - and graduated, so you get a chance to learn what alcohol can do slowly in a sustaining, controlled environment.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:33 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Should correct that part where I said "we and a zillion other illegal drinkers." The drinking age was 18 so some of us were illegal drinkers even in Mexico. The rest of us were just alcohol refugees or something.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:34 AM on August 19, 2008


Even at the time, I wondered why he couldn't say something like: Don't drink until you're 21, but if you do and your friend passes out, lay him on his side, not his stomach. Wouldn't some statement like that actually help prevent future deaths?

This is America. We don't tell young people how to do fun things safely and sanely (in moderation/using protection/not in conjunction with driving/whatever), we just say "DON'T DRINK/TAKE DRUGS/HAVE SEX OR JESUS AND THE POLICE WILL PUNISH YOU!!!!" and hope it works despite all evidence to the contrary that if something is fun people are going to do it. You want to educate young people on how to do something safely? What are you a commie?
posted by ND¢ at 8:36 AM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Drinking licenses folks!
1. Few hours of safe-use class
2. Permit that allows you to drink with your parents @17
3. Full license that allows you to drink at will @18

You can lose your license if you abuse it, no matter your age. DWI, DUI, Public Intoxication etc.
posted by andythebean at 8:37 AM on August 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


21, 18, 13.. it's a matter of maturity and understanding how your body is affected. Maybe the solution is to make the drinking age lower than the driving age... so you drunk bicycle, hurt yourself, and then realize it's moronic to drive drunk.
posted by wangarific at 8:37 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


KirkJobSluder: I think that idea is genius.
The problem which the higher drinking age attempts to address is not that 19 year olds have one drink but that they almost inevitably have ten drinks. That being said, a higher drinking age is a terrible solution to the problem, and one that leaves us where we are now. (It's worth noting, btw, that the status quo truly is unsustainable - - requiring an ambulance to haul away binge drinkers from every campus in the country every night is reckless and dangerous).
Most campuses just don't create social opportunities for their students and, if they do, those opportunities are limited to one night and immediately labeled as lame.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:40 AM on August 19, 2008


Change the legal drinking age to 16 and the legal driving age to 18.

We need kids driving at an early age, so that they can get to their minimum-wage jobs. No fun until you're 21.
posted by Hugs are for Winners at 8:41 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it will just wreak havoc, 18-19 year olds are just too immature to drink in the U.S.A. - it's not like you guys have another country on your northern border that you could use for research, eh?
posted by jkaczor at 8:47 AM on August 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


So simple. Anyone underage who is caught drinking is automatically sent to the army where drinking is legal. We don't need no stinking draft.
posted by Bitter soylent at 8:59 AM on August 19, 2008


They had cops patrolling the hallways at my school-- so kids just started going to parties off campus! And they drove.
God damn it, America: You're so puritanical.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:00 AM on August 19, 2008


No one's said it yet, so I suppose I'll have to be the first...

Drinking and driving is not wrong. Driving and talking on a cell phone is not wrong. Driving and talking to a passenger in your car is not wrong. Driving and talking to a Deaf passenger using sign language is not wrong. Driving and adjusting the radio is not wrong. Driving and watching a DVD is not wrong. Driving and screaming at your kids fighting in the backseat is not wrong. Driving and having a cat cuddling up to your foot by the gas pedal is not wrong. Driving while on 3 doses of diet pills is not wrong. Driving while having had no sleep the night before is not wrong. Driving and writing the next chapter of your book is wrong.

This entire witchhunt around drinking and driving has entirely to do with the religious hysteria against alcohol. Even if you're not religious and even if you drink, you've been subconsciously influenced by a larger culture which sees alcohol as an evil.

A car can be a deadly weapon. Any time we get behind the wheel of a car, we are taking our own lives into our hands and the lives of others both in our car and in other cars. We always need to be aware of our mental condition, whether it is emotionally unstable, tired, distracted or impaired by other substances. Responsible people make responsible decisions, and all drivers need to be taught the importance of making responsible decisions and always taking the most amount of care when driving and making the decision when they are not in a position to drive safely.

People ARE capable of saying, "I'm too drunk to drive." They say it every single night and every single day by the millions. Literally, every single day, millions of people are getting drunk and choosing not to drive. That is because of education.

However, do we see people being educated not to drive when they're angry? What if your boss really pissed you off at work and you're late for a dinner appointment? How many times have you gotten into your car and taken it out on other drivers by cutting people off in traffic, running a yellow or red light or flicking off that asshole who cut you off?
posted by PigAlien at 9:02 AM on August 19, 2008 [11 favorites]


God damn it, America: You're so puritanical.

Change the age for practising religion to 18.
posted by chugg at 9:06 AM on August 19, 2008


I think if you really want to create a healthy moderate drinking culture in this country you need to introduce alcohol to kids through their parents. My parents let my sister and I drink wine under their supervision at a young age and surprise - our alcohol consumption never became dysfunctional. If your first introduction to the drink is through a funnel your relationship to it will always be a mess, just my opinion.
posted by any major dude at 9:06 AM on August 19, 2008


what any major dude says is supported by this Time article, though it makes an important distinction about the type of parent involvement:
the data indicate there are fewer young drinkers, but a greater proportion of them are hard-core drinkers. Parents have helped create this paradox. Many parents seem torn between two competing impulses: officially, most say in surveys that they oppose any drinking by those under 21. But unofficially many also seem to think kids will be kids--after all, not so long ago, they were themselves drinking as teens. A few of these parents have even allowed their kids to have big drunken parties at home.

But there is a better way. At first it sounds a little nutty, but you might consider drinking with your kids. Incongruously, the way to produce fewer problem drinkers is to create more drinkers overall--that is, to begin to create a culture in which alcohol is not an alluring risk but part of quotidian family life. Of course, that's a mostly European approach to alcohol, but there's reason to think it could work here. And it may be the best way to solve the binge-drinking problem.
posted by Miko at 9:16 AM on August 19, 2008


Texas changed its legal drinking age from 19 to 21 within a week of my 20th birthday. No grandfather clause—the state legislature thought (correctly) that would be too confusing. So I could legally drink for a year, then I could not legally drink for a year, and then I could legally drink again. In practice, the change had no effect whatsoever on how much I drank (hic), or even which bars I went to. I was carded for the first time on my 21st birthday, three months after my college graduation.

Yeah, it all made perfect sense.

Lower the drinking age and the college(s) no longer legally responsible for what troubles the students might get into...

You say that as if it were bad. College students are adults. Universities are neither their parents nor their legal guardians. The closest approximation is landlords. Anything that puts responsibility back on the students' shoulders, where it firmly belongs, is a good thing.

He concluded his presentation by mentioning a student at MIT who had recently died in a fraternity hazing, choking on his own vomit after passing out; that's how dangerous drinking is.

Yeah, if only that MIT dude had been 21. He'd have totally survived.
posted by erniepan at 9:17 AM on August 19, 2008


No one's said it yet, so I suppose I'll have to be the first... Drinking and driving is not wrong.

Sometimes there is a reason no one has said something yet, like when the thing that no one has said is dumb.
posted by ND¢ at 9:17 AM on August 19, 2008 [11 favorites]



Have they addressed the issue of people whose breath tests positive when they haven't been drinking? Specifically, diabetics.

No, not in the story I saw.
And I don't think that military people should be able to drink any younger than the general public. Exemptions based on career choices seem like a bad idea--next up, fire fighters and cops? Prison guards? EMTs? No.
And as far as requiring everyone to blow into a device before starting up: isn't it time we rolled back the sense that everyone should be treated like a criminal and simply punish the ones that do wrong? I'm a big believer in putting some responsibility on the bar owners who serve people who are already drunk and the owners I know are glad to have the law because it allows them to stop serving people who have had too much. But checkpoints, going into bars to arrest drunks and adding a device to the car just seems to me to be over the top. For heaven's sake, what is going on in this country?
posted by etaoin at 9:18 AM on August 19, 2008


I have to agree with Miko, in some ways. Kids in America are told alcohol is bad! even past the point of being kids (as in, cops coming to universities to remind us that, yes, alcohol is bad). I attended a university that had a "dry campus." Yet, every dorm, every weekend, there would be empty cases of beer littering the hallways. I think there's something to the effect that (at least American) kids will flock to something, as soon as they're told it's a bad thing.

And yes, I write this while soused, living happily in a land with ample public transport and no hangups about alcohol. Do kids in Japan get ahold of alcohol? Hell yes. Half of the stuff in the convenience stores here is stuff I would have loved in high school (grape flavored 6% booze? In a can? For a buck-fifty?), and there simply isn't carding here.

I think, to a large extent, this problem goes back to the puritan aspect of America, namely that a large percentage of the people who founded the culture, if not the actual government/country, stated that fun was bad. No dancing, no drinking, no laughter, no fun, because that's where the devil comes in. The problem with that whole concept is you have scary Mr. No-fun yelling at you about sinners while you're wearing your supremely uncomfortable Sunday best, but you think of all of those so-called "sinners" that you know, and how much fun they seem to be having, and, well, where's the contest?

Sorry, too much ranting. Maybe I'll have another beer.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:19 AM on August 19, 2008


Phalene: because I remember when they raised the drinking age using the excuse "to keep it out of the high schools". By requiring a HS diploma, that argument can no longer be used.
posted by fings at 9:19 AM on August 19, 2008


binge drinking is not recreational

YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.

I went to undergrad where the school would occasionally fund some for student-organized parties with a willful blindness to underage drinking, in an area where the bars tended not to be particular about IDs or their legitimacy. Seemed to work out fine. "Drink but you must behave yourselves" seems to work much better than "Don't drink. If you drink you will do bad and foolish things."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:19 AM on August 19, 2008


@anymajordude

Yes, my mother's favorite drink was rum-and-coke or wine.

At 8 years old: "Mommy, what are you drinking?"
"Rum and coke, dear."
"Oh, may I have a taste, please?"
"Sure."
Rum-and-coke spit back on carpet. "Eeeewwww!"
Mommy and her weird drinks.
Repeat the next day with a glass of wine.

Skip forward to 15 years old. "You guys are drinking what? That's shit's gross, no thanks." I watched all the other kids act like ass-clowns around me and vomit and think, "what the hell?" and had a great time anyway.

Skip forward to 21. Well, I guess I'm an adult now, maybe I should see what all the fuss is about. Beer, its kinda gross. Wine, hmmm... interesting, very interesting. It seems to go very well with cheese, although I don't think I'd care to just sip it by itself. Well, this margarita sure tastes good! Holy shit, I'm really drunk and now I have a terrible hangover and the room is spinning and my head is pounding. Next week - "Another margarita? Thanks, but hell no, 2 is good for me, I don't need the fucking room to spin and another god-damned hangover."

15 years later - alcohol, yummy! Beer, wine, spirits, each has its time and place and is a great gift from the earth and the brewery to be enjoyed and appreciated.
posted by PigAlien at 9:20 AM on August 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


On preview, I'll have to also disagree with Pigalien. Drinking is a fun and relaxing time that, in some ways, releases your inhibitions and also removes some of your self-control. A lack of inhibitions and reduced self-control is not a good recipe for operating heavy machinery. Of any kind. I'm all for choosing to inebriate myself, but I'm hoping (and planning) that I'll always be the only one who has to clean up after myself (since Mrs. Ghidorah won't have anything to do with it. I mean, three heads, spewing all over the place! Not having any arms makes it really hard to clean up, too).
posted by Ghidorah at 9:26 AM on August 19, 2008


I agree with lowering the age - heck, even eliminating it.

But as others have noted, I don't see how the age limit can be blamed for creating "a culture of dangerous binge drinking on their campuses" or how lowering the age will help to eliminate that culture. Miko is dead on. It is advertising and big corporations that glorify, benefit by, and reinforce the get-drunk-to-have-fun myth. Young or old, riding or walking, binge drinking sucks. It may be true that drinkers - particularly novice drinkers - will almost inevitably push the limits on occasion - I have, who hasn't? But that doesn't make binge drinking right or good, nor should it be glorified the way it so often is. Doing anything until you barf or pass out is pretty freaking stupid.

Too bad if MADD is morphing into zealotry because at one time, they did a lot of good. In another era, when drinking and driving was viewed with a nod and a wink, I lost 9 (count 'em, 9) friends and acquaintances to drunk driving in college and post college. I totally support zero tolerance for drunk driving.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:28 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


andythebean, that seems like a really smart idea. there could be licenses for other drugs too. I guess not for cigarettes because how would abuse be defined?
posted by sineater at 9:35 AM on August 19, 2008


A group of 100 college presidents has come together to state that the 21 year-old drinking age is not working,

No matter how illogical and tyrannical and arbitrary the current drinking age might be, it does have one thing going for it:

it keeps immature, obnoxious teenagers out of my drinking spaces.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:42 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


"When my daughter turned 18 she said, "Hey, I could get married but I don't even have a boyfriend. I could vote, but it's not an election year. I could join the army, but I'd rather not. I could be executed for murder but I'm not going to kill anyone. So, huh, 18. Guess I'll go buy some cigarettes." Great rite of passage, there."

She was also old enough to buy (and be in) porn.

To echo most folks, I was allowed to drink at home somewhat from about eighteen or nineteen on. I didn't turn into a binger (too cheap, mostly).
posted by klangklangston at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2008


it keeps immature, obnoxious teenagers out of my drinking spaces.

Good point. Imagine if every bar was 18+. Ugh.
posted by smackfu at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2008


Drinking is a huge problem at the Big 10 university where I teach. We have a drinking age of 21, but kids are allowed to go in bars at 19. Makes no sense, but the city is run by bar owners and students.

Anyway, I don't care about the drinking age. I do think that there should be severe penalties for acting badly while drinking no matter what age you are. The intensive to drink is great; you have to have a disincentive against bad behavior that is just as great. DWIs, public intoxes, public urination, disturbances, etc., should get hefty fines, jail time and kicked out of school for some probationary period. If you are good, we let you back in. If you foul up again, you are out permanently.
posted by MarshallPoe at 9:48 AM on August 19, 2008


You know, is that really such a bad idea? That people have to ensure that they're safe to drive before being able to start a car?

I've drank alcohol maybe four times this year, and probably haven't gone over .08 any of those times, and you think I should have to blow into a breathalyzer every single time I get behind the wheel? Hell yeah it's a bad fucking idea.

I'd rather risk getting hit by a drunk then put up with that level of inconvenience, frankly.
posted by delmoi at 9:51 AM on August 19, 2008


@sineater

Smoking in a non-smoking zone? I wish that people who did would be ticketed, as it stands. (Coughing)
posted by Phalene at 9:55 AM on August 19, 2008


And I'd rather that no drunks are out there to hit me, but that's just me. I like the idea earlier of drinking licenses a bit better than the breathalyzer thing though.
posted by agregoli at 10:05 AM on August 19, 2008


"Groups like MADD relentlessly remind Americans that the abuse of alcohol continues to be a huge problem on our roadways and, as a result, the most drastic measures are needed. Though truly "drunken" driving is a serious issue, much of the reported problem is little more than PR."
posted by plexi at 10:06 AM on August 19, 2008


The most vociferous MADD representative I knew in high school was a mother of a friend who had a child who died in a drunk driving accident. I could certainly understand the motivation there.

But when her son got busted for selling weed to middle schoolers, she spent six figures buying a 'get out of jail' free card for him and sent him to a private school.

I often wonder what would have happened if he had been busted drunk driving. I'm pretty sure the same thing. That's the thing with absolutists (and Republicans). It's a sin if someone else does it. But it's a youthful indiscretion if me or my child does it.

FWIW, I believe that the increased societal stigma of driving drunk at any age has been as responsible for the decrease in drunk driving deaths if not more so than raising the drinking age to 21.
posted by cjets at 10:10 AM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


FWIW, I believe that the increased societal stigma of driving drunk at any age has been as responsible for the decrease in drunk driving deaths if not more so than raising the drinking age to 21.

Just in time to replace an even more insidious and dangerous culprit - driving while texting
posted by any major dude at 10:22 AM on August 19, 2008


I totally agree that making drinking "forbidden" until age 21 just encourages rebelling and binge drinking. Does anyone know ANYONE who legally waited until 21 to have a drink? I didn't even like most alcoholic beverages and I sure as hell drunk (though not in a binging way, no drunk driving, etc.)

That said, in this climate I don't think the drinking age is gonna go down any time soon. I wouldn't be totally shocked if it got UPPED some day.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:23 AM on August 19, 2008


Those in-car breathalyzers wouldn't help anything. Drunks could just pay someone to blow for them, then get into the driver's seat. I can imagine the poor and homeless doing a pretty brisk trade in 'rental sobriety' outside of bars and clubs.
posted by jedicus at 10:27 AM on August 19, 2008


When do they install those things in cars now? What's the limit of drunk driving tickets/accidents, etc. before people generally are issued those things?
posted by agregoli at 10:31 AM on August 19, 2008


Just because some people can get around a restriction doesn't make it useless.
posted by smackfu at 10:31 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm with those saying "if you're old enough to serve in our military, own a gun, vote, and marry, you should be old enough to drink".

If you can't be trusted with one, you shouldn't be trusted with any.
---------------
Here's a secret shame I only realised I possessed about 15 years ago:

In 1986, I was one of many school children asked in classrooms in TX (and, likely, other states) to write an essay on why the drinking age should be 21. We weren't asked to debate it nor offer other points of view, just to support the drinking age as 21.

Having been surrounded by alcoholics in the family and community and wanting to get an "A" on this "persuasive writing" exercise, I...well, I got that "A". My position was that parents weren't teaching their kids responsible alcohol use and setting bad examples, so - with the black & white logic shared by 15 year olds, Republicans, and fundamentalists - I proposed limiting the drinking age to 21 would give youngsters time to see the results of abuse and develop enough character to imbibe responsibly.

HAH.

I believe I also included some kind of glurge regarding drink driving and accidents, well informed as I was by the nascent MADD movement and their honourable goal of never seeing another kid in a casket.

If I had known then what I know now...if I'd had any idea of how powermad MADD would become, how illogical and willing to support the suppression of civil rights, how muddy they would make the necessary conversation over responsible tippling...

...I would have happily received an "F" by proposing what I said above about if you're old enough for one huge choice that could destroy your life and the lives of others, you should be old enough to make the rest, along with better education about the realities of modern life in schools, homes, and anywhere else young people were delivered messages about how to survive and succeed in the world.
-------------------
18 is definitely still a developmental age. It's also an age we've decided is adequate for making other life-or-death decisions. If we pick a consistent age for everyone to aspire to the full rights, responsibilities, and privileges of a democratic nation, I believe it will be easier to use it as a milestone to true adulthood and give our society one of the things it needs most: a milestone by which we are expected to achieve the ability to be responsible and culpable.

probably wishful thinking, but it can't hurt to try, since the other way has failed so miserably
posted by batmonkey at 10:38 AM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Lower the drinking age to 16 and the age for driving to 18 and the age for military service to 21.
posted by three blind mice at 10:40 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even at the time, I wondered why he couldn't say something like: Don't drink until you're 21, but if you do and your friend passes out, lay him on his side, not his stomach. Wouldn't some statement like that actually help prevent future deaths?

Change the 21 to 19 and that's pretty much what I got told when I got to university. Face down, head over the end of the bed, garbage can underneath. Prevents choking, prevents getting vomit everywhere.

God damn it, America: You're so puritanical.

The Puritans left England because mainstream English society had become too morally lax; they left England to create a more restrictive society, not a more permissive one. The "prosecution" they fled from is the same "prosecution" that the Westboro Baptist Church faces today. Which is to say, the Puritans were nutters but because the moral basis for modern American society anyway.
posted by GuyZero at 10:40 AM on August 19, 2008


We at the University of Florida (Go Gators!) stand proudly in defiance if the completely unjust and antiquated drinking law.
posted by oddman at 10:43 AM on August 19, 2008


You know, is that really such a bad idea? That people have to ensure that they're safe to drive before being able to start a car?

It's a ridiculous, awful idea. Leaving aside any other questions, do you really think that there wouldn't be easy guides to disabling such a device within 3 days of the first deliveries of the vehicles? And for those who aren't very handy, do you think there wouldn't be devices (3 for 19.99! ACT NOW!) that will blow into the mouthpiece for you to start the car?

Completely ineffective. Does nothing but make cars more expensive and penalize the innocent at the expense of the guilty.
posted by Justinian at 11:02 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just because some people can get around a restriction doesn't make it useless.

It does if the cost of the restriction exceeds the value derived from it. An in-car breathalyzer and interlock costs about $1000. Let's assume economies of scale cut that in half: $500. In 2006, there were 7,667,066 passenger vehicles sold in the US. That's $3.8 billion dollars per year just to cover new passengers cars. To retrofit the 250,851,833 existing registered passenger vehicles in the US would cost over $125 billion. And that's not counting semis, school buses, etc.

The cost of drunk driving is estimated at about $9 billion per year. Thus, even with perfect enforcement, it would take about 24 years just to break even, at a cost of over $216 billion. With 50% enforcement, it takes about 88 years and a cost of $460 billion, but let's take the optimistic numbers. For all that money, what do you get? Safe driving, but people are still driving.

As others have pointed out, a far better use of the money would be to reduce the amount of driving. For example, we could build over 4,000 miles of light rail (assuming a cost of $50 million/mile), greatly reducing both the need to drive and the rate of drunk driving.
posted by jedicus at 11:06 AM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


No one knows when breathalyzers are typically put into drunk driver's cars? I'm off to do research. I would imagine it's pretty rare.
posted by agregoli at 11:10 AM on August 19, 2008


If the public and the government can't get it through their heads that some people are not mature enough to drink no matter what their age, and that there are plenty of 14 year olds out there with the wisdom and vision to vote responsibly, then we will persist in having arbitrary ages for the onset of adult responsibility.

I'm hoping that at some point in my lifetime that the Supreme Court will come down on the side that there is only one reasonable age for majority -- and that standard is nationwide.

I don't care if one is 14, 16, 18, or 21 -- if you can be tried as an adult in a criminal trial, you get all the benefits of majority. Consent laws, voting, alcohol, driving, the whole shebang.

Right now there are people as young as 12 being tried as adults. Full adult culpability should only come with full adult freedom.
posted by chimaera at 11:10 AM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I would bet that the 55 mph speed limit saves more lives than banning alcohol to "minors." And when's the 55 mph speed limit coming back? (If it does, it will be because of gas prices.)

I seldom have seen an heavy drinker happy or just content

I would disagree somewhat. I would agree that alcohol can do terrible things to people, and it can destroy bodies/minds. However, I know plenty of relatively happy heavy drinkers. I know more happy heavy drinkers than happy heavy TV watchers, so all of our mmv. (It depends on how you define "heavy" - getting shitfaced every night; no, I don't know too many people who are happy with that lifestyle.)

I'm hoping that at some point in my lifetime that the Supreme Court will come down on the side that there is only one reasonable age for majority -- and that standard is nationwide.

FEDERALIST!
posted by mrgrimm at 11:12 AM on August 19, 2008


I come from a family of alcoholics. My dad and my sister both. I had actually been led to believe that my dad wasn't drinking anymore but after he passed away I found empty vodka bottles stashed around the house -- which was really weird since he mostly lived alone so who was he hiding them from? I just kept thinking some habits must just die hard... but it really hit me that hiding bottles of alcohol in filing cabinets is something that non-alcoholics just can't relate to so it was a good sign that I found it disturbing. I drink pretty regularly, but not enough to feel shame so I have a bar in my living room in plain sight.

But that I'm not an alcoholic is really against the odds. I was definitely born with some compulsive tendencies, I can hold my likker unlike most girls and I've never had a hangover so there's no repercussions to drinking. Plus I'm a creative type with some manic depressive moods. Not to mention that I was raised in San Diego, where alcoholism is rampant in the beach culture in particular. With my friends in San Diego, the general goal of drinking was getting as drunk as possible as fast as possible and staying that way for as long as possible. I knew early on that I didn't WANT to be an alcoholic though. From watching my sister and dad I knew I didn't like drunks and I don't like losing control. I wanted better for myself but it was a struggle because I *really* liked alcohol.

You know what really saved me? My relationship with alcohol changed once I started dating Europeans. I do drink -- I have wine very regularly and am a fan of appletinis. But alcohol doesn't represent escape to me. I know I don't NEED it. To me alcohol is a treat the same way dessert or chocolate are, it's like a little supplement to my diet. Nowadays, when I drink alcohol it's a positive experience that's far more about relaxing and truly enjoying life and far less about spinning rooms or feeling ill. It's like water that's on the table that I take for granted. If I really need to relax and escape my stresses, I'll take a walk or work out or play with my puppy. Then after I come back from that I might sit down with a glass of wine.

There's a big difference between how I drink alcohol now and back when we were wandering the streets of Tijuana looking for the place that had 80¢ beers so we could chug them. But when you first start drinking you tend to go full force into experimentation because you think that's what you're supposed to do. In my mind, that's the problem, not the alcohol itself. It's a cultural issue. Sadly, there are people I used to go to Mexico with who are *still* doing beer bongs in their 40s so it's not just about being stupid kids who don't know any better. These people have children of their own and they still believe a good party is when they're drinking until the room spins. I'm just glad I'm not one of them. 'Cuz honestly... last time I went to one of their parties I found it pretty freaking embarrassing to watch. I felt very glad to be me.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:15 AM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think it's kind of important to separate alcoholism from binge drinking. They can be related, but they aren't exactly the same thing. Whether or not a person is an alcoholic is not entirely dependent on how they were brought up. There are alcoholics whose parents attempted to teach them to drink responsibly, or who were neutral on the topic, or who were teetotallers. And there are people who are not alcoholic whose parents were drinkers, or even pushed alcohol on them, or were very permissive. Alcoholism is a pretty complex phenomenon, and whether people develop that disease isn't as simple as pointing to parental behavior or individual strength.

Binge drinking, on the other hand, is a behavior that can happen independently of alcoholism, and it has its own risks. The medical definitions of "binge" tend to pretty low, at least compared to what happens for a lot of people on a regular weekend (3 drinks in a row for women, for instance). So a lot of people are binge drinking, if you accept that definition. And the risky behavior, the behavior that poses danger to people from driving or accident or date rape or violence or vandalism or whatever, is associated not with alcoholism or attitudes toward alcohol but with the behavior of binge drinking.

I think there's a tendency in these discussions to generalize from one's own experience: "my parents taught me to drink properly, so I'm not an alcoholic." That's kind of a myth; some people whose parents taught them to drink properly can still become alcoholics. Alcoholism is startlingly democratic in choosing its victims - anyone can be in the club.

Alcoholics are certainly enabled and normalized within a binge-drinking culture, but I think it's a little shaky to assert that good parental indoctrination (or bad parent counterexample) will prevent all alcoholism. I think it can help prevent the frequency of stupid drinking by people who aren't alcoholics, but other influences are very strong, too - including the desire to belong and make friends, the desire to socially disinhibit oneself so one can flirt better or dance better or whatever, and just being immsered in a strong culture of drink that imposes few consequences on overindulgence.
posted by Miko at 11:32 AM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can imagine the poor and homeless doing a pretty brisk trade in 'rental sobriety' outside of bars and clubs.

Interesting. Tell me more about these exotic sober homeless people.

As for the breathalyzers being a terrible idea, in Florida you can be forced to have one installed in your vehicle, but you can also obtain a medical waiver if you can show that you are incapable of using it (if you've had a tracheotomy, etc.).

So, clearly the solution is not breathalyzers, but to have to do a finger-prick to test your blood each time you want to start your car.
posted by gatorae at 11:34 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I do agree... alcoholism and binge drinking are two very separate issues. My dad was not a binge drinker but was an alcoholic. My sister is very covert about her drinking unless there's a party. However, in the environment I was brought up in, the binge drinking was a major training ground for alcoholism that developed. The relationship with alcohol that was instilled was a key point of why some of those people drink to excess to this day.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:35 AM on August 19, 2008


gatorea requested:
"Tell me more about these exotic sober homeless people. "

I was a sober homeless person. Straight edge the whole time.

That said, I wouldn't have been party to allowing the privileged to use their money to get around the law, particularly not when it could have meant the death of innocents.

Principled homeless people! Who knew?!?
posted by batmonkey at 11:37 AM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't be totally shocked if it got UPPED some day.

One of my favorite bars has a minimum age of 23. But I suspect that's only feasible for them because they're down the street from a medical school.

I have heard of clubs (these were in rougher areas) which have a minimum age of 25 for men and 23 or 21 for women. I think the reasoning behind that is that the testosterone has dropped a little, that you've aged out of the "THE FUCK ARE YOU LOOKIN' AT!!!!??" age bracket, and are less likely to cause trouble.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:38 AM on August 19, 2008


I remember when DC passed the legislation against talking on a cell phone while driving, I thought it was kinda lame, but I don't spend a lot of time on a cell phone, and I can easily abstain while in the District, so it didn't hurt me too bad. Plus, despite my ability to walk and chew gum at the same time, I realize the vast majority of people cannot handle two activities at the same time, and behind the wheel of a vehicle, these people can cause a great deal of danger. The benefit of preventing this potential danger situation created by such people outweighs the mild inconvenience of having to pull into a gas station to call a pal. Also, the consequence for talking on a cel while driving is a $100 fine. I support this.

What I dislike is the "revenge" factor inherent in any discussion of drunk driving and how to deal with it. People discussing legal consequence almost always have a seething anger to it, 'Zero tolerance! fine them a million dollars, throw them in jail forever, shoot them in the head, etc' and when that isn't sufficient, some amount of "My brother/sister/dad/etc. was killed by a drunk driver" barrier is thrown up, and any rational discussion is lost to the parade of righteous noise.

Alcohol is a depressant that is proven to affect motor skills, slow reaction time, and the like. No one should operate a motor vehicle when intoxicated, that I have no problem with. What i dislike is how 'intoxicated' is defined. The legal limit here and most places is .08, which if I recall, is the equivalent of a beer or a shot of liquor.

However, chemicals affect people differently, and body mass and metabolism have a lot to do with how the body processes things.

Now, if any of my current or future employers are googling me here, I've never driven drunk. Ever. Never ever, I don't even feel comfortable typing 'car' and 'alcohol' in the same sentence. I also pay all my taxes on time and work well with others.

But I weigh 226, and have a frustratingly high tolerance for almost all substances. It makes getting prescription pain killers that actually work without sounding like a junkie a tiresome ordeal. Further, when I drink I sober up super-fast, also annoying, as alcohol costs money. It takes a couple shots before I even feel anything, even more so if I want to get drunk, and I generally end up sobering up and getting bored before everyone else. Now, it'd be awesome if I could leave whatever party I was stuck at, but I would tank a breathalyzer, so I end up sitting around for hours or sleeping over somewhere before the unquestionable official math says I can legally drive home.

I'm sorry to hear about your friend or family member, but I fucking hate this.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:39 AM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


The Puritans left England because mainstream English society had become too morally lax; they left England to create a more restrictive society, not a more permissive one.

The Pilgrims (aka 'English Separatists), representing a tiny minority within the Puritan movement, sailed from Southampton, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 by buying passage on the Mayflower -- a commercial enterprise. They comprised a small number (40 people) of the 102 passengers on board.

It was later waves of Puritans (1629 to Charlestown, MA; the "Great Migration" of 1630 to Boston, etc.) who soon dominated and set the Puritanical tone of the early colonies -- a tone which still lingers in part via outdated and outmoded Blue Laws.
posted by ericb at 11:43 AM on August 19, 2008


Sadly, there are people I used to go to Mexico with who are *still* doing beer bongs in their 40s so it's not just about being stupid kids who don't know any better.

*headasplode*

If drinking were licensed the way some here have proposed, this should be grounds for instant revocation.

Beer bongs past the age of, say, 22 or 23 = not a pretty sight.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:44 AM on August 19, 2008


FWIW I grew up in a religion where drinking is totally verboten. So the "evil of drink" etc was always a big topic of discussion. And it was accepted as common knowledge that a complete ban on alcohol was "the best way".

Later on I happened across this study. Unfortunately I can't find the reference any more (if this rings a bell with anyone I would be interested in tracking it down). They studied patterns of alcohol use & abuse in three different religious groups:

1. Those that absolutely prohibit alcohol.

2. Those that incorporate alcohol (wine, typically) into ritual and generally instill a sense that alcohol is OK in moderation, along with different social or ritual events where alcohol consumption (within certain limits) happens in that context.

3. Those that don't have any restrictions on alcohol use whatsoever.

Of course what they found is that (as a whole and statistically speaking) #2 has the lowest incident of alcohol abuse, followed by #1 and then #3.

The problem with approach #1 is (obviously) it works perfectly for those who "stay on the wagon". But there is always a (large) percentage who fall off the wagon and when that happens they have no lifetime experience or role models of good coping mechanisms or a sense of being able to drink in moderation.

So those who fall off the wagon, often fall WAY off.

Anyway, my sense is the university presidents are looking at something like #2 as the best way.

What you lose when you ban alcohol completely is the opportunity for the university, clubs, organizations, fraternities & sororities to create occasions where good habits can be learned and good role models observed--not that this always happens even with these organizations, but at least working "above ground" you have the opportunity to create a culture where some moderation and good habits are taught. When it's all underground it's just "hey let's get wasted" and it's hard for any official organization to break that cycle because it is all illegal & underground. It becomes impossible to create an alternative.
posted by flug at 11:53 AM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Lower the drinking age to 16 and the age for driving to 18 and the age for military service to 21.
So then we'd have problems binge driving. Honestly, officer, I meant to stop at the state border.


I think if you really want to create a healthy moderate drinking culture in this country you need to introduce alcohol to kids through their parents.
This makes sense to me, but I haven't seen it play out in my experience. My friends who were able to drink at home still drank a lot at college because any social function revolved around drinking. For me, drinking wasn't linked to a specific age, it was linked to college. And I don't know how we would go about severing that link. Even as a young kid in a college town, I associated the university with cups of beer at the football game, pints at the student union, and carousing college students downtown on weekends. The smell of beer reminds me of campus. Hell, my dad's seminary class would have a keg-fuel goat roast every semester.

For a lot of students, I think college is about freedom from all the restrictions that came with teenage home and school. And drinking to excess seems like a logical extension of that freedom. It reminds me of the same mentality that adults have on "escapes" like cruise ships and conventions: My routine has fallen away, so I can get myself good and drunk.

That being said, I fully intend to try and demystify alcohol (or as we call it in my house, "Mommy soda") for my kids. Maybe I'm not off to the best start.
posted by bibliowench at 12:03 PM on August 19, 2008


Good point. Imagine if every bar was 18+. Ugh.

Now, I am not an expert in your country of America, but I believe you may have a drinking-establishment taxonomy similar to that of my own country of Canada that involves:

- clubs
- bars
- "pub"-like places,

and within these broad phyla you may observe such genera as:

- hip-hop clubs
- R&B clubs
- martini bars
- hipster bars
- divey bars
- sports bars
- jazz bars
- Irish pubs
- fake Irish pubs

and so on, within which and depending on your philosophical leanings you may choose to make finer distinctions of species.

As you may know, the drinking age in Canada varies by province but is, I think, always either 18 or 19.

The interesting thing is, despite the fact that all these teenagers can legally enter any and every club, bar or pub they want, as you might guess, they totally don't. What they do is, they, like all other people of all other ages, go to exactly the drinking-establishment that most closely matches the demographic they believe they fit into.

In fact, one genus of bar I forgot to mention is one you may also have in your country, although I cannot be sure:

- student bar

This "student bar" basically entirely solves the "Ugh" problem.
posted by skwt at 12:04 PM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


You know, is that really such a bad idea? That people have to ensure that they're safe to drive before being able to start a car?"

You have a lot more faith in mechanical/electronic gadgets than I do.

Me, I can't think of anyone who hasn't had something unexpectedly go wrong with their power windows or locks, A/C, or rear-window defrost. At least the failure of those components don't render the car un-operational.

Not to mention that my trust for mandatory safety equipment has been a bit damaged by the fact that car manufacturers knew very well that airbags as currently designed are dangerous (lethally so!) for petite women in low-impact accidents that would otherwise cause no significant injury, but hey, the deaths of some skinny chicks are a small price to pay, right? Thanks for the safety!

What happens when the sensor goes kaput? I'd sure be pissed (and more sympathetic to hacking the thing) if I had to tow my otherwise-operational car because the breathalyzer got wonky. Especially if I had consumed zero alcohol.
posted by desuetude at 12:08 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone who makes a cocktail out of vodka and Red Bull should be denied the opportunity to drink. They're just not responsible enough for it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:09 PM on August 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


That which is forbidden or taboo is always appealing.
Even as a kid, when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old I was allowed to have a little bit of wine mixed with sparkling water (a drink know in southern Germany as a Schorle) along with the adults when it was some kind of special occasion (dinner with friends, birthdays, etc). So by the time I was able to obtain booze on my own (beer/wine at 16, hard liquor at 18) alcohol had been quite thoroughly demystified for me. It was pretty much the same for my friends. Yeah, of course we had parties and we drank quite a bit on occasion, sometimes way too much, but it didn't ever turn into extreme binge drinking and we weren't obsessed with alcohol and getting drunk.
I think this would largely be a non-issue if everyone relaxed a bit and helped their children to be able to handle alcohol and develop a healthy and balanced approach to drinking. If your parents are cool with you drinking then it's by far not as attractive a way to be rebellious anymore.
BTW, I had my first drink when I was 2 1/2. My family was traveling in Spain at the time. It was a hot summer sunday and I got a heat stroke. No doctor could be found... this was back in the early 70s. They gave me a small amount of white wine mixed with water to boost my circulation. Worked like a charm!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:10 PM on August 19, 2008


@flug: I don't know your study, but it does remind me of an old joke.

"Why should you always take two Baptists when you go fishing?"

"Because if you take just one, he'll drink all your beer."
posted by fings at 12:10 PM on August 19, 2008 [8 favorites]


It's true, drunk driving deaths went down after the drinking age was raised, but that's more to do with a change in awareness, not that the kids couldn't legally drink. These days no one my age thinks it's ok, and those that do are major idiots, too drunk to make the call, or going a short way and driving slowly (still not wise, but they're not that drunk, just not legal).

I don't think that lowering the age will solve the problem, but I think it's a necessary step in changing the drinking culture in the US. It needs to be a shift from "Let's get drunk!" to "Let's have a drink!" There's also this sentiment among college students that what they're doing isn't alcoholism. Some of them are wrong.

Background: I'm 19, and am a Junior in college in the US. Sips of wine with family since childhood, actual drinking started at 18. I party responsibly these days, but I didn't for a portion of my freshman year of college. Once I got a beard that lets me buy and order alcohol at certain places and a girlfriend who's over 21, the mystique of drinking heavily kind of left. I'd just like to be have a beer or two, and get drunk on the rare occasion

An aside to the whole car-breathalyzer debate: I don't know much about breathalyzers, but wouldn't using a very long tube to blow through it circumvent it? It would just use the air at the other end of the tube if you did it right.
posted by JauntyFedora at 12:25 PM on August 19, 2008


but I think there is a real culture of not driving after drinking these days.

Ive been hit by drunk drivers twice in my life. Almost everyone I know has been hit once. Its far from over.

I think the bigger question is why are there so many binge drinkers, regardless of age. I doubt allowing people to drink a couple of years earlier or later will change this. America has an awful tradition of binge drinking, drinking games, etc. This attitude has not changed. A change in legislature will make no difference. Americans cant be shoehorned into becoming Europeans by congress.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:49 PM on August 19, 2008


Also, if minors are allowed to be tried as adults, it seems that a minor arrested for a minor alcohol-related infraction (such as below .08 but still DUI for under 18, or possession), be also tried as an adult if deemed mature enough, and thus cleared?

If you can be upped to a responsible age to be eligible for punishment, you should be able to be upped to get out of punishment.

Yeah, like that's gonna happen.
posted by JauntyFedora at 12:51 PM on August 19, 2008


Ive been hit by drunk drivers twice in my life. Almost everyone I know has been hit once. Its far from over.

What I meant was relative to the pre-80s. I know there's still drunk driving.
posted by JauntyFedora at 12:52 PM on August 19, 2008


I really don't think the legal age makes really much difference at all. What I see in England (legal age 18 but little to no enforcement of this) is that parents are much more likely to allow their children to drink with the family or at special ocassions from a younger age. Despite this, Britain's binge drinking problem is reaching what some are calling epidemic proportions. There has even been talk of increasing the drinking age to 21.The real problem is not the age limits but the culture. Until the US and the UK as societies change their attitudes toward binge drinking, nothing is going to change and I really don't see societal attitudes in either country changing all that much in the short or medium term.

I guess I'm not really sure how I feel about reducing the age to 18, but when considering that many city centres across Britain have become no-go zones on the weekends due to the drunk people (not just kids - plenty of adults and not just men, women are getting worse and worse) staggering around looking for a fight and as I experience more harassment from drunk people when I'm out and about and minding my own business, I start to get a little less tolerant about making alcohol more readily available to more people.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:00 PM on August 19, 2008


So far we have


Culture
-But when you first start drinking you tend to go full force into experimentation because you think that's what you're supposed to do. In my mind, that's the problem, not the alcohol itself. It's a cultural issue.

-People respond to that cultural idea - that alcohol will allow you to have amazing amounts of 'adult' fun - and feel entitled to it,perhaps even socially pressured to engage in it, now that they are living with less supervision. On college campuses, I think it's the encouragement of a drinking culture, more than the drinking age, that is a problem.

Parenting
-That's the real problem: parents just don't talk to their kids.

-If you make alcohol an enticing forbidden fruit, kids will overindulge the second their parents turn their backs.

-I also met a large number of people from strict home environments who went apeshit at the sudden absence of parental control.

Perception errors
-Anyway, I guess my point is that my generation has grown up believing that drinking must be an all-or-nothing thing

Prohibition
-All control ever does is push consumption into uncontrolled areas rather than stop it happening - it's like the war on drugs

Economic aspects, externalities
-When you ask yourself who has the strongest vested interest in legal drinking from age 18 on, it's not college presidentsMADD, parents, or even young people themselves. It's corporations selling alcohol.

-As others have pointed out, a far better use of the money would be to reduce the amount of driving. For example, we could build over 4,000 miles of light rail (assuming a cost of $50 million/mile), greatly reducing both the need to drive and the rate of drunk driving.

-Not to mention, hm, more young people have access to cars and use them than they did pre-1970, and more people are located outside of urban centers where they can rely on public transport.

Education
-Ignoring a utter dearth of proper (and honest) drug/alcohol awareness to youths in America will not alter this reality,and both MADD and the quasi-libertarians don't accept that from either of their extreme positions on this.

-People ARE capable of saying, "I'm too drunk to drive." They say it every single night and every single day by the millions. Literally, every single day, millions of people are getting drunk and choosing not to drive. That is because of education.

-------------

Clearly, not a single source problem. Maybe it requires a multiple fronts approach.
posted by elpapacito at 1:38 PM on August 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


We need kids driving at an early age, so that they can get to their minimum-wage jobs. No fun until you're 21.

Yeah, I actually thought about that as I was writing my comment suggesting the driving age be raised to 18. When I was a high school teacher, I noticed that most kids had part-time jobs. About a quarter of those kids came from poor families. They had to work shitty jobs during school just to be able to afford to buy relatively nice clothes and even lunch, because their single-parent moms couldn't afford it.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:47 PM on August 19, 2008


Change the legal drinking age to 16 and the legal driving age to 18.

... and not over age 72.
posted by netbros at 1:48 PM on August 19, 2008


-But when you first start drinking you tend to go full force into experimentation because you think that's what you're supposed to do.

Says who? Most things you experiment with, you're supposed to start off slowly. Like eating double cheese burgers.

But I concur, it is a cultural thing. Start 'em young, I says. Wine in the water at 12, short glasses at 14, understanding at 16, basic discernment of excellence at 18.

Or, as my grandfather did, get the kid roaring drunk on champagne first time out and get them off the notion that drunk is fun from the get go.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:27 PM on August 19, 2008


Canada has a drinking age of 19 and the same rate of drunk driving accidents as we do-- so there is no magic to age 21 as a preventative of drunk driving.

Why did drunk driving go down when we raised the drinking age? Because it was now *uniform* (before that, it varied by state) and so now kids didn't cross state lines and drive longer distances once drunk to get home afterwards!!!! Also, because there was a huge campaign against drunk driving at the same time, so awareness was raised.

18 or 19 makes sense-- Canada argues for 19 by saying that this way, no one in high school is legally allowed to drink, but pretty much everyone in college is.
posted by Maias at 3:30 PM on August 19, 2008


I'm just glad the president of Kenyon is involved.

Go Lords and Ladies!
posted by bardic at 3:35 PM on August 19, 2008


The legal limit here and most places is .08, which if I recall, is the equivalent of a beer or a shot of liquor.

Not true. Body weight and genes will affect the BAC you hit after one, two, or six drinks. However, it typically takes more than one or two drinks in an hour to hit .08.
posted by 4midori at 4:00 PM on August 19, 2008


I heartily endorse this. To an 18 year old girl, I'm not pathetic, I have a place of my own!
posted by geoff. at 4:13 PM on August 19, 2008


Ive been hit by drunk drivers twice in my life. Almost everyone I know has been hit once. Its far from over.

Geez, I better stay away from wherever you're from.
posted by smackfu at 4:38 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a really great motion.... as a high school senior, I'm glad that many of the colleges I'm applying to are on that list.

Yay sensibility!
posted by zenja72 at 4:48 PM on August 19, 2008


I think there should be an age limit for people running their stupid fucking mouths.

And I've never understood this perceived problem with people drinking alone. What, downing an entire bottle of vodka with somebody else there watching you is better than just doing it on your own on the couch in front of Futurama and not wearing any pants? Spare me.

What is "binge" anyway, and where can I get it? Is it a pre-mix or more along the lines of spumante?

Oh! And I was drinking alone last night, and watching Rome, and I was thinking about putting together an AskMe, but then I started going glass for glass with Bernard on Black Books, and then I started drunk-IMing my exes, and probably some other stuff happened, but anyway, I was wondering, what kind of wine did they drink back then, I mean in ancient Rome? I mean, they wouldn't have had the full breadth and width of merlots and cab savs and so forth, so what would be the closest thing to the Greek/Roman version of "wine"? Any clues?
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:19 PM on August 19, 2008


Ive been hit by drunk drivers twice in my life. Almost everyone I know has been hit once. Its far from over.

Do you live inside Frogger?
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:20 PM on August 19, 2008 [17 favorites]


And I've never understood this perceived problem with people drinking alone. What, downing an entire bottle of vodka with somebody else there watching you is better than just doing it on your own on the couch in front of Futurama and not wearing any pants? Spare me.

Seconding. "Social" drinking ends up being an excuse. If you need one.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:28 PM on August 19, 2008


I was wondering, what kind of wine did they drink back then, I mean in ancient Rome? I mean, they wouldn't have had the full breadth and width of merlots and cab savs and so forth, so what would be the closest thing to the Greek/Roman version of "wine"? Any clues?

Wine drunk in ancient times.
posted by Brian B. at 5:35 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh Brian B., that link is excellent for a variety of reasons, but particularly this bit down the bottom:

"Wine - Related Topic: Roman Roads"
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:42 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's another page from the same link about the ancient wine trade.

Also, lead poisoning was associated with wine.

In the all-important wine industry of Rome, winemakers included lead in a variety of ways. When boiling crushed grapes, lead pots or lead lined copper kettles were the tastiest choice. Lead leaves a sweet overtone that was thought to add a complementary flavor to the wines. Lead extracts could also be added later to sitting wines to add extra flavor. Wine was not the only source of lead on the Roman table, however. The metal enhanced up to one-fifth of the 450 recipes in the Roman Apician Cookbook of Apicius.

posted by Brian B. at 6:06 PM on August 19, 2008


people, it will never happen.
posted by brandz at 7:05 PM on August 19, 2008


That page of Roman wines is awesome. Thanks B.B.
posted by Justinian at 7:28 PM on August 19, 2008


...who accuse them of 'not wanting to deal with the problem'.

I don't think college presidents should have to deal with the problem in the first place. What they need to stop doing is giving in to the parental pressure to turn college campuses into advanced-level day care centers, and instead start viewing and treating college students as adults who are responsible for their actions and who will endure the same consequence any non-college-attending adult would be subject to.
posted by troybob at 7:29 PM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I drank only occasionally when in high school, but when i got to college, we had a whole week and a have to orientate ourselves (read: find out where the parties within walking distance were.) Once we had that information safely under our belts, school would start.

Then by some idiot's stroke of genius, the Board of Curators decided to make the University a "dry campus." This just meant that the fraternities and sororities could no longer have parties with alcohol or even have alcohol in the houses EVER. Alcohol was already banned in the dorms even for people of age. In the next few years, arrests and fatal accidents due to drunk driving rose by a huge percentage, almost 20% IIRC over the previous levels. That was just the greeks.

Most of my friends just moved into a neighborhood where we could walk to a party and home, and the biggest worry was running from the cops and not spilling your beer.

On a completely different note, I bet if you asked a teenager which was easier, getting pot or a six-pack. I would put $5 on the pot.
posted by schyler523 at 7:31 PM on August 19, 2008


Bring back 8 AM classes M-F and classes that meet 3-4 times a week, abolish grade inflation and the gentlemen's C, flunk out who you have to, and I'd wager drinking behaviors would mellow out.

Based on where I went to college, you'd be wrong.

Very difficult classes, very smart people, little to no grade inflation, frequent early classes.

And a fairly legendary reputation for debauchery.

The fact that it -was not- a dry campus, and that the school had a reasonable policy of harm reduction towards said debauchery helped a lot to keep from hurting more people than it did.
posted by flaterik at 12:26 AM on August 20, 2008


Ive been hit by drunk drivers twice in my life. Almost everyone I know has been hit once. Its far from over.

My first thought was that you are some accident-prone drunk-magnet.

But then I realized that I've been hit by drunk drivers four times — though the last time was back in the very early 1990s. Three times when I was a kid, drunk drivers hit my parents car, and each time it happened some guy would get out of his car saying "wow, I totally didn't see you guys," and a bunch of empty beer cans would fall out and land on the street by his feet. (For what it's worth, not one of those guys got anything other than a citation for hitting my parents' car — no breathalizer, no walk-the-line, no nothing.)

Alcohol-related accidents are a pretty standard part of the local paper, but my guess is that driving while so smashed you can't see the car in front of you might be less common now, just because very few people I know have recently had the kind of accident that was really common when I was young.

When I was in elementary school, either your car would get hit every few years by a drunk, or you would come to school with an awesome story about how your dad had wrapped the car around a tree again. There just wasn't a lot of social stigma about these things, pre-MADD, at least where I lived. (And there was no problem with drinking while driving — I can remember Boy Scout trips and going places with friends' fathers where the men would sip a beer while driving. Not driving smashed, just slowly drinking a beer the way you might drink a coffee. It wasn't something that had to be hidden or commented on.)
posted by Forktine at 6:27 AM on August 20, 2008


As others have said, lowering the drinking age is probably not going to effect the amount of drunk driving that takes place in any real way. There is such a stigma associated with drunk driving now, that just wasn't there 30 years back. If you hit someone while you're driving your car drunk no one is going to have any sympathy for you whatsoever. Drunk drivers have become such pariahs in this day and age.

It would be easy enough to compare the number drunk driving accidents in the US versus countries with lower age limits, including your awesome neighbour to the North, Canada.
posted by chunking express at 9:03 AM on August 20, 2008


All the ages are mixed up. I'd fix it so that:
16-age to vote (put those HS Civics classes to use and let teens vote on the issues that affect their schools and lives)
18-age to drink
21-age to drive and for active duty in the military (so that the part where one is handling dangerous tools like cars and rifles takes place when one is more of a responsible adult).
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 12:46 PM on August 20, 2008


I'm almost certain the reduction in drunk driving since the age requirement was lifted to 21 has much more to do with awareness than the age.

Back in the late seventies when I was in high school drinking and driving was considered a sport. If a cop pulled you over and you'd been drinking they'd typically tell you to go home. At worst they might follow you there or one might even do the driving.
posted by Carbolic at 1:02 PM on August 20, 2008


Raising the driving age to 21 seems like a poor idea. Most 21-year-olds are no longer living with their parents - who is going to teach them to drive? Who is going to supervise them while they're still new and say, "You're not driving today, the weather is too bad and you're not good enough yet." Not everyone can afford a driving instructor, and most of them are rather terrible at their jobs.

Some parents don't do this now, but no parents would be around to supervise their 21-year old kids. I would support more restrictions on who 16/17 year olds can drive with (no friends in the car?), and when, or harder driving tests, but I think raising the driving age would solve fewer problems than people hope.

Driving isn't something you magically get better at as you're older, to more than a small extent - it's something you have to practice. Instead of shitty 16-year-old drivers the road would be filled with shitty 21-year-old-drivers, who never had the benefit of practicing with mom and dad.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:56 AM on August 26, 2008


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