Frequently Asked Questions
Did raising the drinking age save 20,000 lives?
No. This is one of the most misguided and over used statistics circulated by the Youth Prohibitionist movement. The truth is, as researchers Peter Asch and David Levy put it, the “minimum legal drinking age is not a significant-or even a perceptible-factor in the fatality experience of all drivers or of young drivers.” In an in-depth and unrefuted study Asch and Levy prove that raising the drinking age merely transferred lost lives from the 18-20 bracket to the 21-24 age group. The problem with the 20,000 lives saved statistic is that it looks only at deaths for people aged 18-20. This is like rating the safety of a car by looking only at the seat belt and ignoring the fact that the car frequently tips over while driving. Raising the drinking age may have reduced deaths 18-20 but resulted in more deaths among people 21-24. Raising the drinking age has not done its job, and its time we look at the problem of drinking and driving honestly to find better options for dealing with the problem.
People aren’t mature enough to handle alcohol until they turn 21. Right?
When you are 18 you are judged mature enough to vote, hold public office, serve on juries, serve in the military, fly airplanes, sign contracts and so on. Why is drinking a beer an act of greater responsibility and maturity than flying an airplane or serving your country at war?
Doesn’t your body develop up until the age of 21?
Your body and mind improve all through out life. A 21-year-old is different from an 18-year-old, just as a 41-year-old is different from a 38-year-old. Youth Prohibition activists ignore the fact that maturity is a gradual but uneven process that continues throughout life and is not complete on one’s twenty-first birthday. Moreover, they ignore the proven medical fact that the moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with better health and greater longevity than is either abstaining or abusing alcohol. The simplest way to prove this argument is for you to look in your medicine cabinet or go to the drug store. Every single over the counter medication defines an adult dose for ages 12 and up. Not 21, but 12. If the FDA can determine that a 12-year-old is developed enough to have an equal dose of Tylenol, or Sudafed, or Dramamine, or Zantac 75, then an 18-year-old is developed enough to have a glass of wine with dinner.
If 18-year-olds obtain alcohol when the drinking age is set at 21, won’t lowering the drinking age to 18 just put alcohol within reach of 15-year-olds? Wouldn’t this create “low hanging fruit”?
It is true that 18-year-olds currently have access to alcohol despite the law. So do most students in high school. In fact, nearly three-quarters of 8th graders (71%) say that it is “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get alcohol. If even a solid majority of 13-year-olds have easy access to alcohol then clearly a strict no-use Youth Prohibitionist method isn’t working and a smarter approach needs to be tried.
NYRA argues that a strict no-use policy towards alcohol causes many problems, how will simply lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 change this?
The National Youth Rights Association doesn’t just feel we should lower the age from 21 to 18 and change nothing else. We feel larger change must occur for people under 18 as well. Alcohol must be introduced gradually and at younger ages (12 perhaps) as they do in Europe. Young people must be allowed to get their feet wet through the introduction of alcohol in small amounts in safe environments like the home. Any permanent change to alcohol policy must stress this above all. NYRA feels this period of gradual introduction to alcohol may take a few years, but in no way should it last until 21. If an ending year for introduction is to be named, 18 is far more reasonable.
NYRA claims to recognize all the harm alcohol does, if that’s true, why do you want to lower the drinking age?
Alcohol can be a very dangerous substance that causes problems for all people. This is as true for a 17-year-old as it is for a 39-year-old. The danger of alcohol is real and doesn’t go away when someone turns 21. If an organization wished to ban alcohol for the entire population equally, then NYRA would have no reason to stand in their way. NYRA is definitely not “pro-alcohol,” rather NYRA is “pro-youth” and we find it hypocritical that adults point their finger at youth while holding a beer in the other hand. It is time we recognize, and discuss the truth about alcohol rather than creating a young scapegoat for society to blame their alcohol troubles on. Through education, gradual entry, and a relaxing of strict no-use policy towards youth will make drinking safer for people of all ages.
I’m over 21, do I have a reason to care about the Drinking Age?
Yes. The strict and blind enforcement of the drinking age creates many victims over and under 21. Problems for people over 21 include the hassle of being carded at bars and restaurants, and the problem of social segregation. When going out with friends the drinking age drives a wedge between friends over and under 21. Often they are unable to hang out at the same places. Most troubling is what happens to parents who recognize the inevitability of underage drinking will try to provide safe, supervised places for high school students to have parties. These parents can be punished to ridiculous lengths for their attempts to allow safe drinking. In February 2003 Elsa and George Robinson were sentenced to 8 years in prison for providing alcohol at their son’s birthday party. That’s right, 8 years. The harsh drinking age ruins more lives than it helps.
Would NYRA be opposed to lowering the legal limit of Blood Alcohol Content(BAC) for drivers?
No. NYRA fiercely and unqualifyingly opposes drinking and driving, it is a dangerous practice that should be stopped. NYRA’s one and only concern as an organization is age discrimination, that is why we push to reform drinking age laws. As for other alcohol laws not related to age, it really isn’t our concern. If states wanted to lower the BAC to .05 for all drivers it wouldn’t matter to us. NYRA supports all non-ageist policies that seek to reduce the deadly practice of drunk driving.
NYRA describes itself as a “youth rights” organization; do you feel youth have a “right” to drink? Isn’t this a trivial issue?
Certainly there are more critical issues that affect young people in America than drinking alcohol, but the drinking age is a highly visible symptom of our current anti-youth culture. The National Youth Rights Association does not feel this is an issue primarily about alcohol; rather it is an issue about equality, honesty, respect, discrimination and freedom. If it were shown that Americans of French descent were more likely to abuse alcohol would it be right to pass a law stopping all French-Americans from drinking? No, that would be discrimination. Americans of all ages, races, genders, and ethnicities deserve equal respect, and they deserve the right to make their own choices in life. Youth deserve nothing less. So whether it is choosing to drink a beer, choosing to stay up late, or choosing the next President, NYRA feels society must respect and honor the choices of young people in an equal, fair and honest way.