Laxer Laws Could Prevent Irresponsible Drinking

by Fil Gravatte

I suppose it can be argued that it's ignorance or just plain human nature, but when people are held to restraints or set within boundaries, they always seem to cross the lines, explore the forbidden and break the rules.

Especially in our youth, rebellion seems to show itself to the utmost in the household, classroom or workplace. The prohibition on drinking alcohol for anyone under 21 is one of those rules broken constantly all over the nation.

In the United States, the legal drinking age is 21; however, a large number of not only college, but high school and even junior high students, drink. Yet underage drinking isn't enough. Beyond the drinking, young people abuse alcohol to the commonly known degree of complete intoxication.

Not by accident, either; many students and teenagers are intent on passing out before they even begin to drink. Why such an outrageous craving to drink to the point of a drunken stupor?

One of the many reasons why today's young people drink or try drinking is to spite parents, teachers and role models who are telling them not to. It's a chance to prove to friends, family or authority figures that they can do what they want, when they want and how they want.

Children drink despite their parents' rules just to prove a point, to make a statement or simply because of the risk factor and thrill. The less allowed, the more curious young people become.

Parties, such as the one attended by Thomas Joseph Byers III, a UK (University of Kentucky) sophomore who died in a tragic accident one week ago today, are popular places to drink. These parties host a multitude of students of different ages.

Even though laws are in effect and severe consequences for underage drinking are known, the youth of this nation are on a one-minded track for the weekend shindig of drinking and having a great time - unvarying even if it means throwing up with a throbbing hangover headache the next morning.

Only four countries in the entire world have a legal drinking age of 21 - Ukraine, South Korea, Malaysia and the United States. Although old enough to serve in the military, vote for a president and be sentenced as an adult in a court of law, the United States finds those 21 and under not mature enough to drink alcohol. Why is it we can fight a war for our country yet cannot drink? It seems unreasonable.

A commonly known solution to the illegal use of alcohol is to lower the drinking age so that the correct use of alcohol can be taught at a younger age, so that maturity develops and the "shock" of being allowed to drink won't wash over teenagers as they near 20, after they have been driving and going out on their own.

In Europe, the drinking age in some countries is 12, and is designed to acclimate youth at a younger age and develop better judgment skills.

If the drinking age were lowered in the United States, students would have no reason to run from the police. Possibly, Byers would never have had to run from the party and would still be with us, along with others lost in accidents that involved running from the police.

Perhaps if the drinking age were lower, the rebellion of teenagers and their desire to drink in spite of the rules would diminish.

A more agreeable level of coercion could be developed between the public and police. Safer and still enjoyable drinking at parties or with friends could prevail. But the current laws are obviously not working to any efficiency whatsoever.


Editorial posted by permission of the editor of The Kentucky Kernel, where it was published on August 31, 2005.