Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lowering the Drinking Age: Ideas Can Hardly Get Worse Than This One

Now here's an idea -- Let's see if we can help reduce the terrible problems connected to excessive drinking among young adults (binge drinking, drunk driving, irresponsible sexual decisions, lowered performance at school and work, crime, and so on) by reducing the legal age at which you can purchase hard liquor.

Say what? You certainly must have messed that up, didn't you, Denny?

No, that's what's being offered as one of the primary solutions to underage drinking by backers of the Amethyst Initiative, a coordinated effort to lower the federal drinking age from 21 to 18. The Associated Press story on this campaign starts off by telling us that "College presidents from about 100 of the nation's best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth, and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to take up a national debate about lowering the drinking age, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge-drinking on campus."

Well, I'm afraid that opening line is dramatically misleading. For even with "about 100" college presidents on board for the Amethyst Initiative, that leaves more than 3,500 college presidents here in America who definitely are not. And even that "about 100 of the nation's best-known universities"? Once you get past the three mentioned (and Dartmouth hardly qualifies, does it?), you find out the other presidents are from such powerhouse(!) universities as "Middlebury, Smith, Syracuse, Mount Holyoke Trinity, Tufts, Colgate, Kenyon, and Morehouse." Best-known universities, huh?

And that bit about the "current laws actually encourage dangerous binge-drinking on campus"? Really? Pray tell, how?

Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, knows that lowering the drinking age would simply exacerbate the problems, not solve them. And so she not only denounces the Amethyst Initiative, she makes the logical inference that attendance at the party schools where these muddle-headed presidents preside might present dangers more easily escaped at other, more responsible colleges.

"It's very clear the 21-year-old drinking age will not be enforced at those campuses."

Others agree, including the parents of college kids. Note, for instance, this article from Forbes about a Nationwide Insurance survey just released. It should give great pause to politicians who might find themselves pressured by the bluebloods of the Amethyst Initiative. And it should also give great pause to those college presidents whose signing on to this silly and dangerous scheme could quite probably keep a few incoming freshmen from ever "incoming" at their school!

Americans continue to overwhelmingly reject an ongoing push to lower the legal drinking age from 21 to 18. According to a Nationwide Insurance survey released today, 72 percent of adults think lowering the drinking age will make alcohol more accessible to kids and nearly half believe it would increase binge drinking among teens. More than half even say they are less likely to vote for a state representative who supports lowering the legal limit or send their children to colleges or universities with "party school" reputations.

"Being recognized as a top party school is not a good thing," said Bill Windsor, Associate Vice President of Safety for Nationwide. "Our survey clearly shows 75 percent of people support greater enforcement of existing underage drinking laws and increased penalties for adults who give alcohol to those under age."

Nearly eight of 10 adults Nationwide surveyed believe teenage drinking contributes to drunk driving crashes and higher insurance rates, especially for teen car insurance. In fact, industry figures show alcohol-related crashes cost each U.S. household more than $165 a year in higher insurance premiums. That cost continues to rise.

"Lowering the drinking age passes this big problem to those in the high school community already dealing with very serious underage drinking issues," said Laura Dean-Mooney, MADD's new national president...

These underage drinking statistics alarm the parents of college-bound students - and 58 percent of parents say they are less likely to send their children to a known party school. Additionally, 70 percent of parents want colleges to notify them when their child violates the school's alcohol policies.