On June 3, Senator Frank Lautenberg died from complications of viral pneumonia after having been involved with the Senate since 1982.
While in office, his accomplishments were many, but perhaps the most prominent of all was in writing the law that set the legal drinking age at 21.
Yesterday was my 21st birthday.
Needless to say, I can drink legally now; but what about turning 21 makes an individual more qualified to consume?
According to Yahoo.com, he wrote the law “as a condition of getting federal highway aid, a move he said had saved tens of thousands of lives.”
In 1984, that may have been the case, but times have changed.
Morris E. Chafetz, founder of the National Institute for Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA), said in a 2009 Huffington Post article, “Legal Age 21 has not worked. To be sure, drunk driving fatalities are lower now than they were in 1982. But they are lower in all age groups.
And they have declined just as much in Canada, where the age is 18 or 19, as they have in the United States.”
He continues on saying his institute estimates that of the 5,000 lives lost yearly due to underage drinking, more than 3,000 of those deaths are completely unrelated to traffic accidents.
He said agreeing and contributing to the raising of the minimum drinking age to 21 “is the single most regrettable decision of [his] entire professional career.”
The Amethyst Initiative is a group of more than 100 school presidents and chancellors who think the drinking age should be reexamined.
In 2010, they said, “Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer. By choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law.”
The most relevant quote I have found to describe my official opinion on the matter comes from the American writer, P. J. O’Rourke.
He said, “No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.”
The drinking age is outdated, and Senator Lautenberg has passed; perhaps it is time for the 21 minimum legal drinking age to be laid down with him.
Grace Moore is a senior journalism major from Waterloo, Iowa who serves as editor for The Tech Talk. E-mail comments to ako...@latech.edu.