Why 21 Is the Legal Drinking Age and How It Can Prevent a Drunk Driving Accident

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Can the Legal Drinking Age Actually Prevent a Drunk Driving Accident?

21 is a momentous age for many young adults, as they are now legally allowed to purchase alcohol. A Mai Tai, Screwdriver, Cosmopolitan, Margarita, or a classic IPA–the possibilities are endless. There is even a holiday dedicated to the occasion, Legal Drinking Age Day, celebrated every July 21st.

The day also works as an opportunity to raise awareness for responsible drinking and preventing impaired driving. When it comes to impaired driving accidents in the United States, the national average of drunk driving deaths is about 37 people per day; that’s nearly one person every 39 minutes.

Because the statistics of alcohol-impaired drivers involved partially consist of teen drivers and drivers under 21, it is more vital than ever to raise awareness of the harmful effects that drinking and driving pose.

Although underage drinking is an ongoing problem, data reveals that maintaining the legal drinking age may help save lives. But, how much truth is there to this theory? Find out why the legal drinking age is 21 here.

Why 21? A Brief History Into Legal Drinking Age Day

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Post-prohibition, between 1933 through the late 1960s, many states set the legal drinking age to 21, but some states set lower legal drinking ages.

In the 1960s and 1970s, most states lowered the legal drinking age to 18, consequently leading to an increase in alcohol-related car accidents. Additionally, over two-thirds of drunk driving crashes involved young people between the ages of 16 and 20.

In response to the drunk driving crisis, President Ronald Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act on July 17, 1984. These new minimum drinking age laws required that all states raise the legal drinking age to 21.

The minimum drinking age act proved to be effective, as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that drunk driving crashes significantly decreased from 40% to 24% between 1982 and 2004. Additionally, the decline was most prevalent for drivers under the age of 21 than for drivers over the age of 21.

Legal Drinking Age Day is acknowledged every July 21st, to represent the month the national law came into place and is symbolic of the legal drinking age. Coincidentally, it is also Ernest Hemingway’s birthday, the prized American novelist and short-story author who was known for his adventurous life and drinking prowess.

Is the Legal Drinking Age Supported by Science or Dismay?

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The drinking age may be viewed as an enigma to some. For instance, is there a difference in how blood alcohol concentration affects an 18-year-old versus someone who is just three years older? Additionally, in other countries, teenagers as young as 13 are allowed to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages.

So, why is the US so adamant on its stance to maintain the current minimum legal drinking age (MLDA)?

The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for judgment and decision-making, experiences significant changes during adolescence. Therefore, teenagers are naturally more likely to exhibit lapses in judgment.

That paired with even a single alcoholic beverage will certainly interfere with clear reasoning, increasing the likelihood of an accident occurring when getting behind the wheel.

Consequently, excessive drinking also contributes to more than 3,900 annual deaths among individuals below the age of 21, consisting of both fatal crashes and other health-related complications.

Why the MLDA Matters

It’s true. Various parts of the world view the minimum legal drinking age differently.

However, data indicates that alcohol consumption in the US by those under the age of 21 has been linked to major health risks, like the following.

  • Death from alcohol poisoning
  • Unintentional injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, burns, and drowning
  • Suicide and violent behavior
  • Changes in cognitive development
  • School performance problems (absenteeism and failing grades)
  • Development of alcohol and drug dependency
  • Adverse birth outcomes

A teenager’s adolescence stage is one of the most vital stages in development. Drinking alcohol regularly or binge drinking before the brain has matured can cause permanent damage and interfere with continued brain development.

Additionally, it has been found that youths who started drinking before the age of 15 were six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse of other substances than those who started drinking at or after the age of 21.

Drunk Driving Accidents Increase in the Summer

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Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day–some of the most celebrated holidays take place during the summer months. Oftentimes, these celebrations involve heavy alcohol consumption, and with that, drunk driving.

The National Security Council (NSC) found that fatal crashes and car accidents that resulted in injuries occurred most frequently during July and August.

Additionally, the majority of accidents occurred on weekends, including Sunday, Friday, and Saturday, and in the evenings between 8:00 PM to 4:00 AM.

Los Angeles County also experiences the most DUI arrests statewide, logging over 23,500 in 2019. Orange County had the second-highest DUI arrests with over 11,100 arrests.

Legal Consequences of Drinking Alcohol and Driving

The California blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.07%. Therefore, it is illegal to drink alcohol and drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Additionally, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to have a BAC of 0.01%.

In addition to harming others, the consequences of drinking and driving have severe legal ramifications.

  • Driver’s license revocation: In some states, a first-time drunk driving conviction will result in the revocation of a driver’s license for at least 4 months. Subsequent convictions can lead to longer license suspensions or even permanent revocation.
  • Fines: Alcohol-impaired drivers may face fines up to thousands of dollars depending on the severity of the offense, but even a first-time offense can cost up to $10,000 in fines and legal fees. 
  • Jail time: Regardless if it’s a first offense, drunk drivers run the risk of arrest. The first DUI can range from a minimum of 2 days to a maximum of 6 months. Future offenses can result in jail time up to a 1-year maximum. 


How to Stay Safe On the Road

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Impaired driving can result in serious injuries, ranging from broken bones to permanent scarring to spinal cord injuries to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and more. Injured victims are entitled to fair and full compensation in the event of an accident caused by drunk drivers.

While on the road, there are some precautions that can be taken to stay safe from an impaired driver. Here are some valuable tips.

  • Wear your seat belt. This is the best defense in any car accident, not just DUI-related accidents. Seat belt usage reduces the risk of death by 45% and critical injuries by 50%.
  • Drive defensively. Be alert and anticipate the moves of a drunk driver or a reckless driver, especially in the evenings.
  • Avoid driving when it’s dark out. The majority of DUI-related accidents happen at night, so when driving, remain cautious of drunk drivers and observant of overall surroundings.
  • Do not engage in distractions. Maintain full attention on the road, and avoid distractions, like eating, texting, searching for music on playlists, etc. 
  • Be aware of the signs of impaired driving. These signs include swerving, speeding, tailgating, and failing to yield the right of way. Maintain distance from drivers exhibiting reckless behavior.


Contact a Car Accident Lawyer

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If you or a loved one were a victim of a drunk driving accident, you are legally entitled to compensation. Los Angeles car accident lawyers can help you file a personal injury claim and obtain a fair settlement for sustained damages.

At Angeleno Accident Lawyers, we specialize in helping clients who were wronged by another party’s reckless negligence seek justice. We maintain a 99% success rate and have recovered millions for our deserving clients.

To learn more about our personal injury law firm, please schedule a free consultation.

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