New Commentary on [CR] Responds

This morning, Toben Nelson and Traci Toomey of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and several of their colleagues published a commentary in response to [CR] President John McCardell’s September 16th piece outlining the case against Legal Age 21. We encourage you to weigh in with your comments in the “Sound Off” section on the CNN website. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you read their essay and let CNN’s online audience know that an open debate about Legal Age 21 is necessary:

“In the 1970s when many states reduced their drinking ages, drinking-related deaths among young people increased. When the drinking age of 21 was restored, deaths declined. This effect is not simply a historical artifact explained by advances in safety technology and other policies.”

Choose Responsibility does not endorse a legislative program that would cut three years off of the legal drinking age without implementing an education and licensing program to foster positive change. When many states reduced their drinking ages in the 1970’s, none of them instituted the type of education and licensing program that Choose Responsibility endorses. Our experiences in the United States and in New Zealand have clearly shown that simple changes in age limits will not do enough to improve the culture of toxic drinking by young people – education and licensing initiatives are vital to changing the culture of toxic drinking.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that setting the drinking age at 21 saves the lives of 900 young people each year and has saved more than 25,000 lives since 1975.”

Claims about the effectiveness of Legal Age 21 in regard to “lives saved” deserve close scrutiny. As we noted in our response to Dr. McCardell’s 60 Minutes appearance in February, this statistic is the result of a simple mathematical formula that takes 13% of the difference between one year’s alcohol-related traffic fatalities and the next and attributes the product to the 21 year-old drinking age. Jeffrey Miron, a senior lecturer in Economics at Harvard University, has recently produced research that calls this statistic into question.

Nelson and Toomey claim that the debate about Legal Age 21 has “no foundation in research,” but the realities of binge drinking are alarming and are getting worse:

Legal Age 21 is not equipped to deal with the consequences of the current culture of toxic drinking by young people. It’s time to take this debate seriously – dive into the comments at CNN’s website to show your support for Choose Responsibility and our mission.

3 Responses to “New Commentary on [CR] Responds”

  1. Edwin Says:

    The drinking age must be lowered to 18 along with an alcohol education program. The ageist drinking age of 21 is responsible for encouraging binge drinking among those 18-20. Respecting the age of majority is very important but also is instilling alcohol licensing with that. Those 18-20 who “underage” binge drink do so because no responsibility along with respecting the age of majority has been created. The drinking age can’t be debated solely on traffic deaths, because that’s not the entire story.

  2. Vickie Volk Says:

    There are so many issues that need to be address with the age of minor being changed. In ND our kids can drive at 14. We educate them and for the most part these kids turn out to be good drivers. Our law enforcement are targeting the college students. They are stopping our young adults on campus asking them if they have been drinking. Giving out minors. Our young adult children are learning it’s better to try to drive home because your chances are better than walking. What a bad message for the law enforcement to present. If their friends have to much to drink they can’t get them help due to the fear of law enforcement giving out minors. All these people who are fighting against lower in the age of drinking with education or the people who forgot they drink in hidden spots in college. Education is the answer. Our kids are wiser these days with all of the education they receive. Give them back their right to make wise choices.

  3. [CR] Week in Review | Top Legal News Says:

    […] you’ve had a chance to check out both sides of the drinking age debate brewing at and our response to the team of researchers who defended Legal Age 21 in their commentary. After they were posted, […]