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Drinking Age 21 - Facts, Myths and Fictions

NCJ Number
Date Published
28 pages
Based on a review of testimony before State legislatures, editorial opinion, and research reports, this booklet identifies common arguments against making 21 years old the minimum drinking age and presents facts and reasoning to counter them.
When the minimum drinking age in most States was lowered from 21 to 18, accidents, deaths, and injuries involving young drivers increased sharply and immediately. Other facts related to the debate on the 21-year-old minimum drinking age are that alcohol-related auto accidents are the leading cause of death for Americans between 16 and 24 years old, and 16 percent of the people who die in alcohol-related crashes are teenagers. Also, 18, 19, and 20 year olds make up only 7 percent of licensed drivers but account for 16 percent of the drivers in alcohol-related crashes. States that raised the legal drinking age to 21 have experienced an average annual reduction of 28 percent in nighttime fatal crashes involving drivers of the affected ages. Drivers between 18 and 20 years old have fatal alcohol-related crash rates per mile driven that are three times those of older drivers. Overall, data indicate that teenage drivers as a group cannot make responsible decisions about drinking and driving. States should make 21 years old the minimum drinking age. 21 references.