Most of today's readers know that the legal national drinking age is 21. But do you know why? If you don't, that's okay. Few know that the age of 21 was set on July 17, 1984 when then President Ronald Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. The act allowed the federal government to withhold funding for highways from any state that established a drinking age less than 21 years old. In the last 31 years, no state has dared to oppose it.
Sentiments on the legal drinking age are changing in our nation though. You've probably heard some of the arguments already. But while some groups want to raise the legal drinking age, some believe that lowering it may be a better option. It's the people in this group that should give our Virginia readers pause as their efforts could bring about legislative change in the distant future.
Leading the way is the Amethyst Initiative, which is a collection of signatures from more than 100 presidents of college institutions who all believe that serious considerations should be made regarding changes to the national drinking age. Though the Amethyst Initiative does not suggest any specific policy changes, it does point out the prevalent problem of underage drinking still present in our society. This supports the signatories' claims that the current minimum drinking age is not as effective as we once thought.
What lowering the drinking age would mean to Virginians
As you can imagine, lowering the drinking age would have a major impact on our laws, particularly their wording and enforcement. At present time, underage consumption of alcohol is a crime that could cost a young person their driving privileges for a period of time. It's also an offense that shows up on their criminal history, potentially causing problems for them later on.
If states were allowed to set their own drinking ages without fear of penalty, and Virginia decided to lower its minimum drinking age, then our state might be able to minimize drunk-driving instances among underage drinkers as well as reduce the life-long impact of an alcohol-related charge. It's something worth considering, particularly considering how ineffective many people believe our current law is.
Source: CNN, "21: Science's limit when it comes to the drinking age," Jen Christensen, July 15, 2014