Underage Drinking Laws

Although the legal drinking age for the U.S. is 21 years old, underage drinking laws may still vary from state to state. This article discusses effective underage drinking laws, some statistics involving underage drinking laws, and how underage drinking may affect you.

An important part of the reduction in fatal crashes involving teenagers - especially drunk teenagers, has been the adoption of 21 as the legal drinking age in all states in the United States of America. Other underage drinking laws differ from state to state, but all states in the Union have adopted 21 as the minimum legal age for the consumption of alcohol. This move has helped reduce the deaths related to driving for teenagers, although it has not completely done away with deaths.

One thing that still remains a problem, and that might be contributing to fatal crashes, is the fact that many states allow teens to begin driving when they are 16 - or even a little bit younger. In other developed countries, the legal driving age is 18. (Of course, in other countries the minimum legal drinking age also falls between the ages of 16 and 18.) In the end, many feel that other countries’ tendency to require more maturity from its drivers, as well as the providing a certain amount of time for teens to better understand alcohol helps. Another issue is that in many other developed countries, the punishment for drinking and driving is the immediate revocation of the driver’s license. (In some countries, your driver’s license can be revoked even if you are operating a bicycle under the influence.)

Effective underage drinking laws

In the U.S., there are some states that have enacted additional underage drinking laws, or additional traffic safety laws, that are more effective in decreasing the number of fatal crashes involving teenagers under the influence of alcohol. Science Daily reports on a study that involves the content analysis of state drinking laws, and their effectiveness, using statistics from the Alcohol Policy Information System, the Digests of State Alcohol-Highway Safety Related Legislation, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the Westlaw database.

One of the most effective laws, according to the study, is the “use and lose” law. This law basically revokes a teen’s driver’s license if he or she is caught use alcohol while underage. This is a temporary suspension of the driver’s license that becomes progressively harsh if teens are caught using alcohol while underage multiple times. A 5% decrease in fatal crashes involving underage drinking is seen in the states that do have use and lose laws, as opposed to the 15 states that do not have this laws.

Other measures that are effective in reducing underage drinking crash fatalities include laws that apply to everyone. These traffic safety laws, reports the study, protect those who are driving under the influence from becoming fatally injured during a car accident. These laws include, a legal limit of .08 blood alcohol for driving and a mandatory seat belt law. These requirements encourage a degree of safety and protection for drivers, reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road. However, there will still almost always be those who decide to drink and drive, no matter the legal or safety implication. It would be nice if there were one way to get rid of fatalities related to underage drinking altogether, but that is not likely.

In the end, the best thing that parents can do is to try to instill a sense of responsibility in their children. Parents who talk to their children about underage drinking, and who make their expectations very clear, are more likely to connect with their teenagers, and prevent underage drinking situations. Maintaining an interest in your child’s life as he or she grows up is important, and can help reduce fatalities related to underage drinking and driving.

Related Article: Alcohol Related Crime >>