Allison's Policy Paper

Allison Von Ehwegen
Rachel Robson
March 9, 2009
The Current Drinking Age

It’s a commonly heard story. A bunch of college kids decide to have a party. The college kid that decides to have the party lives off campus so no one has to worry about cops. A few kids decide to stay at the house where the party is, but 4 teens have to be home because they have work in the morning. Everyone is having a great time at the party when the 4 teens realize they don’t have a ride back. One of the girls in the group tells everyone she hasn’t had “that much” to drink and that she is fine to drive home. The teens realize they only have 10 minutes to get back before they break curfew so they speed up. The girl driving the car loses control and crosses over into the other lane and hits a car coming at them. All of the teens are killed but one along with the driver of the other car. When the surviving teen is asked why no one called a cab she replies, “We didn’t want anyone to find out we were under age and get in trouble”. Accidents like these happen everyday. Sometimes no one is injured, but thousands of teens risk their lives while drinking simply because they don’t want anyone to find out they were drinking. The truth is, whether the drinking age is 21 or not, people choose to drink underage. If the drinking age were to be changed to 19, the hope is that more people will be safer when they drink.
Changing the drinking age from age 21 to age 19 is a touchy topic for many American teens, and adults. Though the idea has been bounced around, no one has really made the next step in getting the law changed because it is so controversial. Changing the drinking age hasn’t made much progress occurs partly because there are good arguments for both sides. Though both sides of the argument are legitimate, the arguments for changing the drinking age to 19 appear to weigh more than the arguments to keep the drinking age the way it is. The drinking age should be changed to 19 because legally teenagers are now “adults”, leaving the drinking age to 21 puts parents in a difficult position, having the drinking age at 21 encourages under aged teens to break the law, and when teens choose to drink under age, they tend to drink more.
The first reason for changing the drinking age has some discrepancies because the argument isn’t for changing the drinking age to 18; it’s for changing the drinking age to 19. The reason for this is simple; many 18 year olds are still in high school. When teenagers are 19, they are out of high school and providing for students in high school becomes tougher because many 19 year olds don’t live at home anymore and they are no longer around they’re high school friends as often. Changing the drinking age to 19 is the chosen age because not only will nearly all students be graduated from high school, but they will also be able to vote, enlist and fight in Iraq, enter into binding contracts, marry, own businesses, and serve in judgment on a jury (Amendment 26).
Another problem with the drinking age being 21 is the amount of alcohol under age kids end up drinking. According to a study done by the Institutes of Medicine, 90% of the alcohol consumed by 18-20 year-olds is consumed when the individual is engaged in an episode of heavy drinking (National Academies Press). This is dangerous because people’s brains aren’t fully developed until their mid 20’s. Drinking large amounts of alcohol before the brain is fully developed negatively affects all part of the brain including coordination, motional control, thinking, decision-making, hand-eye movement, speech, and memory ( http://www/ . Then why change the drinking age to 19 if the brain isn’t fully developed until people are in their mid 20’s? The hope is that if the drinking age is changed to 19, people will either (a) be more responsible with the amount of alcohol they drink, or (b) they won’t have to sneak around and do it and therefore, there will be more supervision and others looking out for them.
Another problem that occurs with the current drinking age is the position is puts parents in. Parents are supposed to teach their children right and wrong, and teach them to do the right thing and abide by the law. The truth is, under age drinkers know it’s wrong, but they do it anyway. This causes two problems (1) Parents can forbid their under age children from drinking even though they know there’s a good chance they will do it anyway and possibly put their lives and the lives of others in danger and (2) They can serve their under age children alcohol even when the law says no. One study shows that only two in every 1,000 instances of underage drinking results in arrest or citation (Public Health Reports). This not only makes it seem ok to drink, but it also opens a door way to breaking other laws in the future. Either way, lives are put in danger and parents are left unsatisfied.
There are other concerns with lowering the drinking age that include long term alcohol problems, and an increase in the number of people getting into car accidents. The concern with long-term alcohol problems comes from the idea that the earlier people start drinking, the greater the risk for addiction in the future. However, facts show that the average age of first drink has actually decreased since Legal Age 21 was implemented and has held steady around 14 years of age. Advocates of the 21 year-old drinking point to the fact that since the drinking age has been standardized at 21 drunken driving fatalities have decreased by 13% amongst 18-20 year-olds (National highway Traffic Safety Administration) Though this statistic is true, it does not take into account the other factors that are affecting driving fatalities. During the 1980s and 1990s, legislative changes, increased law enforcement, tougher prosecution and punishment, highly visible advocacy, and public education to help fight the problems with drunk driving. Other changes, such as mandatory seat belt laws, lower BAC limits, and stricter rules on automobile safety standards have also played a large role in lowering automobile accidents (NHTSA Technical Report) .
Changing the drinking age isn’t something that can be changed in a day. It’s a law that will have to go into effect gradually. New licenses will need to be made so they no longer say “under 21 until ##/##/###”. Bars and liquor stores will have to be notified, so there will be a large amount of advertising that will need to be done. The drinking laws for 19 will be similar to the laws and regulations for the state of Texas and will go as follows:
Minors who purchase, attempt to purchase, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages, as well as minors who are intoxicated in public or misrepresent their age to obtain alcoholic beverages, face the following consequences:

* Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $500
* Texas Safety Network Poster Alcohol awareness class
* 8 to 40 hours community service
* 30 to 180 days loss or denial of driver's license

If a minor is seventeen years of age or older and the violation is the third offense, the offense is punishable by a fine of $250 to $2,000, confinement in jail for up to 180 days or both, as well as automatic driver's license suspension.

A minor with previous alcohol-related convictions will have his or her driver’s license suspended for one year if the minor does not attend alcohol awareness training that has been required by the judge.
Adults and minors who give alcohol to a minor also face a stiff penalty. The punishment for making alcoholic beverages available to a minor is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $4,000, confinement in jail for up to a year, or both. Additionally, as of September 1, 2005, the violator will have his or her driver´s license automatically suspended for 180 days upon conviction.

Also as of September 1, 2005, persons 21 or older (other than the parent or guardian) can be held liable for damages caused by intoxication of a minor under 18 if the adult knowingly provided alcoholic beverages to a minor or knowingly allowed the minor to be served or provided alcoholic beverages on the premises owned or leased by the adult.
Sale to a minor is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $4,000, confinement up to a year in jail, or both.
While it is illegal for adults over 19 to drive while intoxicated, it is illegal for a minor to drive while having ANY detectable amount of alcohol in the minor's system.

1. The consequences for the minor on the first offense of driving under the influence of alcohol:
* Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $500
* Attendance at an alcohol awareness class
* 20 to 40 hours of mandatory community service
* 60 days driver´s license suspension. The minor would not be eligible for an occupational license for the first 30 days.

2. A second offense increases the consequences to:
* Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $500
* Attendance at an alcohol awareness class at the judge's discretion
* 40 to 60 hours of mandatory community service
* 120 days driver's license suspension. The minor would not be eligible for an occupational license for the first 90 days.

3. A third offense is not eligible for deferred adjudication. The minor's driver's license is suspended for 180 days and an occupational license may not be obtained for the entire suspension period. If the minor is 17 years of age or older, the fine increases to $500 to $2,000, confinement in jail for up to 180 days, or both (

Works Cited
Institutes of Medicine. (2003). Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. Washington: National Academies Press.
Narcotic Education Foundation of America, Drug Abuse Education Provider of the California Narcotic Officers’ Association (2002). Alcohol-a Potent Drug.
Kindelberger, J. (2005 March). Traffic safety facts research note: Calculating lives saved due to drinking age laws. National highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved June 15, 2007 from:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2005). Traffic safety facts: 2004 Data (DOT HS 809 905). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved May 1, 2006, from:
Wolfson, M., Wagenaar, A.C. & Hornseth, G.W. (1995). Law officers’ views on enforcement of the minimum drinking age: a four-state study. Public Health Reports, 110(4), 428-438.
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, (12/21/2007). Underage Drinking: You Can´t Afford the Buzz. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from Web site:

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