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What were the effects of the minimum legal drinking age being increased to 21?

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Presentation on theme: "What were the effects of the minimum legal drinking age being increased to 21?"— Presentation transcript:

1 What were the effects of the minimum legal drinking age being increased to 21?

2 Motivation Trouble in Davenport between underage drinking in a controlled environment and Davenport’s Dean Is this a safety issue? Or is it a legal issue?

3 Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act of 1984 Denied a large percentage of federal highway construction funds to states that maintain minimum drinking ages below 21 years Effectively changed drinking age in all states, as no state was willing to accept the high consequence

4 Initial Reason for the Change in Law To reduce the amount of alcohol-related traffic fatalities

5 Was this Solved? Looking at simple statistics, from the time before the law was passed to the present, YES!

6 Was this Solved? (cont’d) Steady decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that through 2002, the increase in the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) has saved 21,887 lives in the 50 states While alcohol was involved in 60% of U.S. vehicular fatalities in 1982, the rate in 2005 was 39% NHTSA estimates that the current MLDA will continue to save 1,000 lives each year

7 Possible Confounding Variables for Downward Trend Life-saving effects, or just a redistribution of deaths over the life cycle New safety features Mandatory seatbelt laws Better law enforcement More alcohol prevention programs/education

8 Redistribution of Life Cycle Research suggests that the 21 MLDA may not alone prevent alcohol-related traffic fatalities from occurring, but simply postpone the age when they do occur

9 Redistribution of Life Cycle (cont’d) If the consequence of the 21 MLDA was to postpone fatalities occurring amongst 18-20 year-olds until they became 21-24 year-olds, then the “lives saved” assertion may be worthless

10 New Safety Features According to NHTSA estimates, safety belts and airbags have combined to save 206,287 lives between 1975 and 2004 Airbags: In July 1984, the U.S. government required cars being produced after April 1989 to have driver's side airbags Chrysler and Ford introduced airbags in the mid-1980s Chrysler made them standard equipment across its entire line in 1990 Improvements still being made to side and curtain airbags Anti-lock Brakes: Offered on about 30 domestic and foreign car models during the 1987 model year

11 Mandatory Seatbelt Laws Dictated by state legislation 49 states introduced laws from 1984 to 1995 New York was first in 1984 New Hampshire only state without seatbelt law

12 Law Enforcement Law enforcement is much more vigorous now than in 1982, with advances in: radar technology breathalyzer technology airbag and anti-lock brake requirements the increased use of sobriety checkpoints advent of zero tolerance laws in all 50 states a lower minimum BAC The “designated driver,” a term virtually unknown in 1982, has now become commonplace Could be cause for 25% reduction in the tendency to drink and drive Suggests designated driving is the norm and not the exception

13 Alcohol Prevention Programs/Education Increasing popularity of programs “Rethinking Drinking” and “School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project” (Australia) Have shown some effectiveness in influencing young students’ drinking behaviors AlcoholEDU Used by 450 colleges and universities across the U.S. in 2004 Users 20% less likely to have a binge drinking occasion Users 30% less likely to become problematic drinkers These programs are proven to be effective

14 Alcohol Prevention Programs/Education (cont’d) Other Programs: D.A.R.E. – Drug Abuse Resistance Education MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving Thinking When Drinking Project ALERT Just the Facts

15 When Alcohol Education Works Strategies based on harm reduction and environmental management have been successful in reducing underage alcohol abuse Strategies that address the complex psychological expectancies that lead to excessive drinking amongst young people are effective in reducing rates and incidences of alcohol abuse Abstinence-based education programs alone have little to no effect on preventing use or abuse of alcohol among underage drinkers

16 Other Effects of Higher Drinking Age Increased binge drinking For underage binge drinkers For life

17 Binge Drinking Underage drinkers drink behind closed doors and drink quickly in fear of getting caught This type of drinking – drinking to get drunk – is often identified as a problem of college students Studies report that 44% of college students have engaged in a night of binge drinking in the past two weeks

18 Binge Drinking (cont’d) Two decades ago, there was hardly any mention of binge drinking in the news but, strangely enough, it was also two decades ago, in 1984, that the drinking age was raised to 21

19 Binge Drinking (cont’d) New data show that binge drinking is becoming more common much later in life as well By introducing young adults to alcohol in an unsupervised setting where the objective is to get as drunk as fast as possible, the 21 drinking age is establishing drinking practices that have negative, lifelong effects

20 Binge Drinking (cont’d) NHTSA estimates that the current MLDA will continue to save 1,000 lives each year Well over 1,000 people die each year of alcohol-related causes other than traffic accidents The World Health Organization found that while 15 and 16 year-old teens in many European states, where the drinking age is 18 or younger (and often unenforced), have more drinking occasions per month, they have fewer dangerous intoxication occasions than those in the age group in the U.S. In southern European nations the ratio of intoxication occasions to all drinking occasions for 15 and 16 year-olds in southern was approximately one in ten, while in the U.S. it was roughly one in two

21 Conclusions The effects of the change in law are overstated, and possibly negative The 21 MLDA should be reconsidered

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