American Drinking Culture & Laws


From Doing Shots to Sipping Capri Suns – Why America Needs to Revise Its Drinking Laws

[I]n the movies, you can always see the American lifestyle being broken down into partying, having fun, and just doing what you feel like doing.

For such a reckless portrayal, the US has some of the weirdest laws when it actually comes down to partying.

The drinking laws in particular have been under some debate for a long time now. But because they have stood for so long, there haven’t been enough talks about them. If you’re wondering how and why these laws need to change, these are the reasons.

1. They’re an Antiquated Solution That Hasn’t Worked Out

When the drinking age was first established to be 21, it wasn’t because of a specific legal reason or post-Prohibition.

It happened in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan decided it would be a good solution to the rising drunk driving fatalities of the 60s and 70s.

In the latter half of the 20th century, the US had one of the highest numbers of drunk drivers and related fatalities. That’s why it was decided to have drinking ages so high that only 7 other countries around the world match it.

If you think that changed much, think again. In terms of drunk driving statistics, the US still ranks 3rd among all countries. While it’s enough for a celebration according to some lawmakers, it has hardly made an impact.

2. They’re Treated as State Laws When They’re Actually Federal

State laws are a way for states to individually set terms on their own turf. Their population may respond to things differently and may live a certain way.

It makes sense to tailor laws according to your people rather than impose a blanket restriction on them.

That’s what they want you to believe about drinking laws as well. In reality, they are actually federal laws.

Technically, any one of the 50 states can legally lower the drinking age. Yet, so few of them do. Even freer states like California won’t dare to mess with drinking laws. Ever wonder why?

It all comes back to when these laws were put in motion. The legal age was (and is) allowed to be set lower than 21 by any state. However, if they do this, they lose their highway funding by 10 percent.

That may not sound like a lot, but roadworks can be some of the biggest expenses for a state. Hence, no state is going to willingly throw away 10 percent of their budget just to appease some teenagers.

What that ends up meaning is that you have state laws that are being ransomed and bullied into submission by federal lawmakers. It’s a great way to show freedom on paper while actually dictating the terms.

3. They’re a Product of Drawing Correlations and Conclusions That Don’t Make Sense

Drinking laws came into effect to solve one thing: drunk driving. They wanted to make sure that they could keep their roads safe from drunk driving incidents. And that’s a laudable goal. Unfortunately, it was thought about all wrong.

If someone is driving while drunk, that’s a clear indicator they’re an irresponsible person. The most irresponsible people are usually teenagers.

So, if you have a high rate of underaged drivers getting drunk, it makes sense to ban underaged drinking, right?

If the purpose of the laws was to make the statistics go down, they definitely did their job. Underaged drinking rates plummeted after these laws because they literally couldn’t drink anymore. It solved the problem on paper, at least.

However, if you’ve ever gone through your teens or have been around teens, you know how much drinking can happen behind closed doors.

Here’s how they should have been looking at it. America has cheap cars, cheap insurance, cheap gas, and limited public transportation.

That means a lot of drivers. What else does America have? A culture of drinking excessively and being reckless. That means a lot of drunk people doing dumb things. It’s not hard to put two and two together. At least, if you’re not a lawmaker.

4. The Laws Don’t Attack the Heart of the Problem

The US isn’t the only country that tops the drunk driving charts. In fact, plenty of countries like South Africa and Australia hold a place on the list. It’s not like they’re not doing anything to solve their drinking problems.

Then, why don’t these countries raise their minimum drinking age? Because it doesn’t really work.

When America’s drinking laws came into effect, there were two options that were thought of. You either raise the driving age to prevent teens from getting on the road, or you raise the drinking age to prevent teens from getting drunk. Neither of these really help the situation.

The right answer should have been to prevent drunk teens from driving on the road. It’s a compound problem; you can’t treat just one thing or the other.

Other countries tackle these problems by imposing fines in the thousands, suspending licenses for years, and dictating hefty jailtimes. All this on the first offence.

This is why countries like Poland have seen a significant drop in their drunk driving incidents, while the US still struggles with theirs.

If you still think the US is doing things right, here’s a question. When was the last time you got road tested for your license? Probably when you first got it and only when you first got it. Every other time after that, you could renew it via mail without even being tested.

It didn’t matter if the laws changed. It didn’t matter if the way cars drove changed. It didn’t even matter if you started becoming more and more reckless.

You could still get a license without ever being regulated again. If that doesn’t sound more dangerous than a shot of Jameson, I don’t know what will.

Korey Thomas Anderson

Korey Thomas Anderson was born in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has worked as a Bouncer & has valuable experience in spotting invalid identification cards. His work has been widely appreciated by Bar Owners & currently writes for our Blog.

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