Why is the Legal Drinking Age 21-Years-Old?

the concept for drunk driving

Many U.S. citizens know that the legal drinking age for alcohol is 21. It seems odd at first, considering you can vote, enlist in the military or even adopt a child in some states at 18. So why is the minimum drinking age 21?

The Minimum Drinking Age Act

There was a time where many states had a minimum drinking age range that was between 18 to 21-years-old. In 1984 when Congress passed the Minimum Drinking Age Act, all states gradually began to raise their legal drinking ages to 21.

By 1990, all states were enacting this law. The Minimum Drinking Age Act says that if states do not raise their legal drinking age to 21, they lose eight percent of their federal highway funds.

How Did the Law Change to 21-Years-Old?

The history of how this law came to be can be traced back as far as the Prohibition era. In short, however, with the passing of the 26th Amendment in 1970 that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, some states followed suit with their minimum drinking age, and lowered that to 18 as well. Other states kept their drinking age between 18 to 21-years old.

Studies were soon after published, showing an increase in vehicle fatalities that correlated with the states’ minimum drinking ages. In 1984, the Minimum Drinking Age Act was written with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)’s support.

Multiple studies, including a 2010 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), have concluded that there are reductions in traffic fatalities since the enactment of the Minimum Drinking Age Act. On MADD’s website at the time, traffic reports were showing a 62 percent decrease in alcohol fatalities among teen drivers.

Another measure that keeps our roads safe are mandatory Ignition Interlock laws for all DUI offenses.

Mandatory Ignition Interlock laws see a reduction in traffic fatalities and lowers recidivism in repeat offenders. With the many safety measures we have in the U.S., such as the legal drinking age and mandatory Ignition Interlock laws, we can only see a safer future on our roads.

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