[CR] Week in Review

On this date 25 years ago, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was signed into law as part of a widespread national effort to cut down on drunk driving. During his remarks before signing the bill, President Reagan lauded “the rise of a great national movement, a movement that’s led by men and women in all walks of life. It began in the community; it spread to State governments; and now it’s won wide support here in our Nation’s Capital – the movement against drunk driving.” 25 years later, it’s clear that we’ve made tremendous progress in educating the public about the dangers of drunk driving, but the same cannot be said about the issue of binge drinking. Unfortunately, the law has helped create environments that encourage toxic, goal-oriented drinking and put America’s young adults at increasingly greater risk. It’s time to consider a change, and in order to find a solution to this persistent public health crisis, we’ll need a similar grassroots movement starting with citizens from all corners of the country. As [CR] President and founder John McCardell put it in his recent essay in The Atlantic, “Binge drinking is as serious a crisis today as drunk driving was two decades ago. It’s time we tackled the problem like adults.”

Stories this week:

On Thursday, Momo Zhou of ABC News interviewed Dr. McCardell for her story about medical amnesty policies on college campuses. When asked about the usefulness of amnesty policies to make students’ lives safer, Dr. McCardell said, “Our official position can only be abstinence, but what do we do in a situation where 75 or 80 percent of our population is not abstaining? We’re talking about saving human lives, because the fact is, young people’s lives are at risk.”

Dan Romer, Director of the Adolescent Risk Communication Institute at the University of Pennylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, added his letter to the pile of New York Times editorial responses. He outlined the consequences of Legal Age 21 for administrators who try to inform students about alcohol in a meaningful way: “The laws actually prevent colleges from educating young people about how to drink responsibly by making it impossible to hold events at which only moderate drinking is permitted. As a result, college students drink in private settings where responsible adults cannot monitor their behavior.”

As you may know, there are some exceptions to Legal Age 21’s prohibition on alcohol – and it appears as though another one may soon be on the books in South Carolina. This week, Richland County Judge Mel Maurer declared that state laws barring possession and consumption of alcohol by 18-20 year olds are unconstitutional. 18-20 year olds will still be prohibited from purchasing alcohol, however, and a state spokeswoman said the decision will be appealed to a circuit court. Joe McCulloch, the attorney representing a 20 year-old student who was ticketed for possession of alcohol in March, said, “the constitutional decision to allow 18 year olds a vast array of freedoms, including the ability to fight for our country, suggests that the privilege of alcohol consumption as well should be extended to our citizens who are 18 years old and above.” In his coverage of the ruling, Steve Shanafelt of the Spartanburg Spark noted that this decision could have an impact on the federal funding incentives attached to Legal Age 21: “if you can’t bust kids for underage drinking, it saps most of the argument for the federally mandated age restrictions on buying alcohol in the first place.” What are your thoughts on the ruling, which maintains the prohibition on purchasing? Will it be upheld in the appeals process?

In other news…

Linda Borg of the Providence Journal reported on a new policy in Barrington, Rhode Island that will mandate alcohol screening for all students who attend high school dances. As Borg noted, “under the previous policy, students were asked to submit to an alcohol-breath test if school officials felt that there was probable cause that a teenager had been drinking. Now, all students will have to be tested before they are permitted into a school social function.” This new decision was met with some controversy in the community – Steven Brown of the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union said the new rule “shows a lack of concern for students’ basic privacy rights. The end result will be virtually useless in terms of addressing the town’s alcohol problem.” Do you agree, or can this policy help cut down on instances of drinking among younger students?

Join Together reported this week that on July 1, a new ignition interlock law went into effect in Missouri. From this month forward, all repeat drunk driving offenders will be required to install ignition interlocks in their vehicles.

Did you catch Patrick McArdle’s recent piece in the Rutland Herald about the recent spike in underage drinking parties? If not, you can read about it here.

As always, if we missed something this week, leave a link in the comments. Have a great weekend!

2 Responses to “[CR] Week in Review”

  1. Matthew Says:

    The drinking age of 21 has aimed to cut down on drunk driving, and binge drinking. This law that has a noble goal, caused more binge drinking than it has aimed to prevent in the first place, and has not gotten rid of drunk driving in an of itself. Notice the irony?

  2. Edwin Says:

    The drinking age must be lowered to 18 along with an alcohol education program. South Carolina must let those aged 18-20 possess alcohol because they’re adults, thus the ageist state spokeswoman definitely deserves to lose on that case. I condemn the Rhode Island policy which forces students to be screened for alcohol in order to attend high school dances. However, it’s good that Missouri has enacted a strong IID law and all states should consider the same. 25 years of this ageist law has harmed too many young adults.