Drunk Science

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A new study of college students indicates that about 20 percent of underage students sometimes drive cars while intoxicated. About 43 percent sometimes ride in cars driven by intoxicated people. Interestingly, this sort of behavior appears to go up when students reached legal drinking age at 21. About 25 percent of college students over 21 sometimes drive cars while intoxicated.

According to a write-up of the study in Inside Higher Ed, “the… finding, the paper says, could be an argument against the move to lower the drinking age.”

Well, sort of crappy argument. According to the article in Science Daily about the study, the authors, Amelia Arria of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Robert Voas of the Impaired Driving Center at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, explain that,

Our findings call into question the assertions of some advocates who claim that lowering the drinking age to 18 would be a useful strategy for reducing harm associated with alcohol consumption. The present findings are consistent with numerous prior studies showing that increased availability of alcohol is associated with a greater level of problems especially underage drinking-and-driving fatal crashes.

Wait a minute. Just because risky drinking behavior increased when college students turn 21 doesn’t mean that lowering the drinking age would be dangerous.

The earlier people get easy access to alcohol, the earlier they figure out how to drink responsibility. If studies find that the rate of drunk driving increases when college students turn 21, why not lower the drinking age? Like, to below 18. Students could then figure out how do drink responsibility perhaps before they even start to drive—before, in fact, they get to college and college parties at all.

The study will appear in the August 2010 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer