Understanding the demographics of drunk driving may help society at large work towards preventing it. It may also help clear up some of the pervasive myths surrounding drunk driving. Far too many people are still trying to lower the drinking age in the United States from 21 to 18, believing that this is somehow going to solve the problem, or at least improve it.
For one thing, people aged 21 to 25 are more likely to commit drunk driving than any other demographic when it comes to age. People under the age of 45 all still have relatively high drunk driving rates compared to the middle-aged.
States that have had a drinking age of 18 had higher rates of drunk driving, with all of the associated consequences, compared to states that had the drinking age of 21. In fact, nations that lowered their drinking age from the twenties to the late teens, such as New Zealand, saw an increase in drunk driving, binge drinking, and other problems overnight. European nations where the drinking age is 18 have more problems with alcohol than the United States, not less. Giving very young people more freedom with alcohol cannot be the solution.
The popular refrain that says that 18-year-old people are old enough to join the military, and should therefore be old enough to drink, draws an odd false equivalence. For one thing, that really sounds like an argument for increasing the age at which someone should join the military. For another thing, people don’t make this argument about other things, even though it could technically apply.
People can’t rent a car until age 25 and can’t run for Congress until that age either. They can’t rent a hotel room until 21, which is also the legal age for drinking. Few people talk about how individuals who can join the military should also be able to run for Congress, rent a car, or rent a hotel room. These issues are nowhere near as politicized, and most people know that running for Congress is a big responsibility. A child who just became a legal adult last week should not be making decisions that affect the lives of an entire nation of people.
Similarly, a child who just became a legal adult last week should not be given the power to voluntarily impair his or her senses and reaction time in the manner of a drunk person. Given the demographics, a case could be made for raising the drinking age to 26, matching it up with the age at which people can no longer stay on their parents’ insurance. Most people’s brains have finished developing by their mid-twenties, making this a better drinking age. Individuals who are trying to tamper with the legal drinking age may be getting more than they bargained for, so they’re advised to take what they can get.