Advocate

For most girls, their 16th birthday is expected to be a day full of joy. For Alexis McKinney, however, an ambitious teen who was looking toward adulthood, her sweet 16 was spent being mourned at her own funeral. On July 11, 2016, a party thrown for fun memories resulted in Alexis’s death while she was getting a ride home by her 17-year-old boyfriend, who crashed due to reckless underage drinking and driving. The minimum legal drinking age (MLDA), has remained at 21 following The National Minimum Drinking Age law of 1984. Recently, the minimum drinking age debate has been growing as opposing organizations, such as those formed under college influence, fight to lower the MLDA to 18. If the drinking age were to return to 18, adolescents’ increased availability to alcohol would only contribute to devastating repercussions such as heavier drinking and life-threatening consequences. The minimum legal drinking age should not be lowered from 21.

A lower minimum drinking age would increase alcohol-related injuries and other consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation’s health protection agency, performed a study from 2006 to 2010 that found 4,358 deaths of adolescents are due to alcohol. Currently, a leading cause of teen death in the U.S is due to motor vehicle fatality, which can be exacerbated by intoxicated driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a nonprofit against drunken driving, found that in 1982, there were 26,173 alcohol-induced deaths. However, in 2005, where the MLDA was 21, there were 9,288 fewer deaths. Lowering the MLDA would only once again increase the alcohol availability to those under 21, further magnifying the number of lifelong reverberations that already occur. New drivers would have unlimited access to alcohol, which would only lead to teenagers intoxicated behind the wheel, endangering both the driver and fellow passengers. Alcohol also impairs judgment which can lead to a multitude of poor decision making such as driving under the influence, physical or sexual assault, and acts of aggression and violence. Reducing the drinking age once again would only endanger more lives and a multitude of

futures.

Allowing alcohol at a younger age would cause adolescents to become more alcohol dependent. The Urban Child Institute, a nonprofit focusing on child development, found the brain continues to undergo critical growth past the age of 20. Alcohol can strongly alter these developments, affecting both cognitive brain functions and growth. Altering these functions can create a brain more vulnerable to alcohol dependence. This teenage dependence can be also viewed regarding phones and other devices, seeing as many teenagers in this generation are almost addicted to their electronics. However, with alcohol, this dependence becomes so much more worrisome. Although some may argue that implementing a younger drinking age will create safer and more responsible teenagers, this is far from the truth. The National Institutes of Health, a leading medical research center, conducted a survey during which 5.1 million underage students admitted to binge drinking at least once in the past month. A younger drinking age would only prove for more recklessness, while maintaining the MLDA will protect growing brains and help ensure adolescents a healthier and safer future.

To help prevent underage drinking and its consequences, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), a nonprofit organization that formed in 1980 as a result of the increased alcohol related traffic incidents that fights to stop drunk driving and help those afflicted, makes constant strides to raise awareness, state by state, and push for advocates in communities. I urge readers to inform themselves on the deadly effects of underage drinking, and take action such as drafting a personalized letter to their state lawmakers addressing their strong concerns. Advocating for change in a community can help MADD raise awareness on the legal drinking age, pass legislation, and enact various programs focusing on creating safer roads and minimizing underage

drinking.

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