Underage drinking continues to be a major problem in the U.S. Every year, binge drinking in college and high school leads to a handful of deaths. This number pales, however, when compared to injuries and fatalities that come from teenagers getting behind the wheel after drinking.
Unfortunately, the response to this situation has always been to enforce drinking age restrictions even more stringently. This response is unfortunate because it not only prevents lots of responsible young adults from doing something that they might enjoy, it also doesn't work.
Why the U.S. Minimum Drinking Laws Don't Work
All 50 states in the U.S. have a minimum drinking age of 21. While this is the norm in America, however, nearly every other country in the world has a minimum drinking age of 18.
Statistics alone show how America's insistence on a high drinking age doesn't work. No matter how high the drinking age is, young adults have shown that they'll get their hands on alcohol. Despite it being illegal in the U.S., teenagers between 12 and 20 have still managed to drink 12% of the alcohol that gets consumed in the country. This has resulted in a staggering number of teen drivers losing their lives on the road. In 2012, out of the drivers under 21 who were killed in an accident, 28% had alcohol in their bloodstream, with 24% having a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit of 0.08%.
Logically, a drinking age of 21 doesn't make sense, either. Young adults have shown that they'll drink, even if it is illegal. By keeping laws strict and the legal drinking age at 21, young people are pushed into situations where they drink secretly, and where binge drinking is common. By drinking irresponsibly in these situations, young adults are put at risk of alcohol poisoning and are more likely to risk drinking and driving, rather than get risk getting caught at the party.
New Hampshire Is Considering a New Approach
Neighboring New Hampshire is considering taking a novel approach to the problem of underage drinking.
Noting that other countries do not have such severe underage drinking problems as the United States does, a bill has been proposed in New Hampshire that would allow young adults between 18 and 20 to drink if they are with an adult. The idea behind this bill is that it would let young adults enjoy alcohol in a controlled environment where they could rely on someone to keep them safe. The bill would also deter young drivers from drinking and getting behind the wheel by lowering the legal BAC limit of these drivers from 0.08% to 0.05%.
Needless to say, the bill has opponents, particularly law enforcement, who claim that lowering the drinking age would do nothing but increase the number of young adults drinking and driving.
Of course, even if passed, the New Hampshire bill would have no impact on Maine's OUI laws. However, it is a signal that lawmakers are finally reconsidering the wisdom of how America legally deals with alcohol. It's about time.
If you've been arrested for OUI in Maine, call the law office of William T. Bly at (207) 571-8146 or contact him online. His extensive experience in Maine courtrooms and with OUI law, in particular, have made him one of the state's premier OUI-defense attorneys.