DUI roadblocks and legal drinking age

My question is inspired by the debate over DUI roadblocks on this thread.

After making my arguments on that thread, i asked, and am asking now, a question about the possible relationship between attitudes to DUI roadblacks and attitudes to the legal drinking age. In looking up some websites on drink-driving, i came across a quote (i can’t find it again now - typical) by a senior NHTSA figure saying that state Age-21 drinking laws were one of the greatest contributors to road safety in the country, and that he couldn’t believe that some legislators want to lower the drinking age (i’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea).

The question i want to ask, as someone who comes from a country (Australia) where the voting and legal drinking ages are congruent (i.e. 18), is whether people on this board see any infringement of Americans’ rights in keeping the legal drinking age at 21 when political majority is attained at 18? And, if you do support the higher drinking age, is it consistent or is it hypocritical to condemn DUI roadblacks as an infringment of one’s rights? And why?

Some people, of course, will say that the two issues are totally separate and that there is no point in trying to connect the two, but i’m not so sure. I’d be interested to hear what people have to say on the issue.

I remember the drinking age going from 18 to 21, but I was little. I was told one of the reasons was people between 18 and 21 don’t really vote as often as they should, so the politicians didn’t really care about them, they cared about the groups pressuring them to raise the age.

Basically what this law says to me is that it take less maturity, thought process and self control to vote for your leaders, to buy and own your own property, to legally see naked women dancing in front of you in a juice bar, to go get sent to the military and work on and with machines that cost millions of dollars in preperation to kill or be killed, but goddamn you if you want a beer while you do it.

The potential harm to society from an individual who is not mature enough to vote responsibly is minimal.
The potential harm to society from an individual who is not mature enough to buy or own property responsibly is minimal.
The potential harm to society from an individual who is not mature enough to look at naked persons responsibly is minimal.
The potential harm to society from an individual who is not mature enough to be in the military is minimal (trust me – there are plenty of blocks to a single stupid under-21-year-old wreaking havoc).
However, the harm to society from an individual who is not mature enough to drink responsibly is much, much greater than minimal.

Did I resent that I couldn’t legally drink even while I held a commission in the U.S. Army? Yep. But I saw the reasoning behind it.

I don’t really remember getting more mature simply by turning 21.

You have to draw an average line somewhere, Soisi. Our society has judged that line to be your 21st birthday. Are all 21-year-olds mature enough to handle drink? No, clearly not. But have most become much more mature than they were on their 18th birthday? I would argue that they have. I certainly don’t know anyone who was less mature for that three years.

I’ve seen people in their 50’s and 60’s arrested for DUI. Should we change the legal consumption age to 65? Just to make sure all drinkers act mature?

Have most people become more mature by the age of 65? I would argue that they have. I certainly don’t know anyone who was less mature for that forty-seven years.

Currently if you drink responsibly at age >21, wonderful. If you don’t, you get arrested, fined, and or sent to jail.
Why shouldn’t this reasoning apply to any adult between the ages of 18 and 21?

:rolleyes:

Give me a choice between hanging out with an immature idiot with a gun or an immature idiot with a beer, I’ll bring the ice and pretzels.

Viva Le Pen!!

Seriously, stankow, do have any statistics to back up any of your assertions?

Sua

Thanks ever so for rolling your eyes at a subject you apparently not only know nothing about, but willfully don’t want to learn more about. I can only assume that, since you quoted my statement * there are plenty of blocks to a single stupid under-21-year-old wreaking havoc*, that you actually read it and disregarded it, presumably because it didn’t fit into your cute little quip there. But I’ll try to enlighten you anyway.

The military does not issue “a gun” to every person who signs up. All weapons are carefully taken care of and locked up when not in use. When being used, all reasonable precautions (and more than a few unreasonable ones) are taken to prevent accidents. You don’t “hang out” with your weapon – you check it out, you fire it as necessary, you clean it, and you bring it back to the heavily locked and guarded arms room. All under supervision, especially for the younger service members.

As for your previous post:
**

Because the result of irresponsible drinking is not simply “arrested, fined, and or sent to jail.” It can be, and frequently is, death or severe injury to innocent bystanders. Therefore, there is an abiding societal interest in preventing as much of that irresponsible drinking as possible. If you make people wait another three years, then you prevent much of it.

Which assertion? My assertion that an individual has little effect on the overall outcome of a vote? It wasn’t one guy who voted for Le Pen (who, incidentally, wasn’t elected to anything anyway).
That an individual who can look at naked people is a danger?
That an individual who can buy or own property is not as much of a danger to society as a drunken driver?
That an individual in the military can’t wreak havoc on the scale of an individual drunken driver?

Find me some statistics that disprove any of these allegations, and I’ll gladly start looking for counterexamples.

And just to save you the trip – approximately (and I’m overestimating here) four people a day are killed in training accidents in the U.S. military. How many orders of magnitude does that beat drunken driving by?

Stankow, that isn’t nearly good enough.

Yes, I’ll easily concede that an individual drunken driver may cause more damage than an individual engaging in any of the other acts you mentioned. That concession is without regard to the age of the drunken driver

But the law doesn’t say that “Bob Smith, Age 18 and demonstratively immature, may not drink alcohol.” It says that everyone under the age of 21 may not drink alcohol.
Also, which is very relevant to your posit, the law doesn’t say that “under-21s who are driving that day may not drink alcohol.” The eighteen year-old who doesn’t own or have access to a car is acting just as illegally.

Similarly, the law does not say that everyone over 18 may look at naked people, “except for Bob Smith, who psychological studies have demonstrated is highly likely to act aggresively towards, and perhaps rape, women after looking at nudie pictures.” Etc., etc.

Laws apply to the general population. You are relying on the comparative damage caused by individual acts.

Sua

[QUOTE]
*Originally posted by SuaSponte *
**Yes, I’ll easily concede that an individual drunken driver may cause more damage than an individual engaging in any of the other acts you mentioned. That concession is without regard to the age of the drunken driver
But the law doesn’t say that “Bob Smith, Age 18 and demonstratively immature, may not drink alcohol.” It says that everyone under the age of 21 may not drink alcohol.
Also, which is very relevant to your posit, the law doesn’t say that “under-21s who are driving that day may not drink alcohol.” The eighteen year-old who doesn’t own or have access to a car is acting just as illegally.[/b/]

[quote]

True. However, since society has an interest in keeping immature drivers from getting drunk, which is easier? Testing all 16-year-olds with driver’s license for “maturity” as regards alcohol, or simply denying them the ability to drink alcohol until they’ve put a few years of life under their belts?

Since Bob Smith at 21 will, in almost every instance, be more mature than Bob Smith at age 16, I’m willing to go along with the arbitrary age cutoff for drinking being set higher than for driving.

**

Because individual acts, repeated over and over again, become societal issues that must be addressed by laws. The individual chance of any particular person being murdered is very, very low. Yet we disallow it legally.

Dammit. Sorry about that, Sua. The material “quoted” in the above post should, of course, end at the part that starts at <quote> and restart at the part that’s bolded.

stankow, here’s a solution: issue one of two licenses for minors, either a drinking license or a driving license. A drinking license will get you into a bar but doesn’t give you permission to drive on public roads. Once you turn 21 you can have both licenses.

But personally, I feel safer around a 16-year-old who is drinking than a 16-year-old who is driving, and I suspect driving a car is much more dangerous overall than drinking alcohol. Why not lower the drinking age below the driving age (as in much of Europe)? Then teenagers would have some experience and maturity regarding alcohol when they are able to drive.

“Easier” is emphatically not a valid basis for limitations on the rights of individuals in a liberal democracy.
Furthermore, we already have laws that address the harm caused by drunken driving. They are called “drunk driving” laws.

And if murder almost never caused injury, the penalties for murder would be considerably less than they are now, or it would be legal. But, of course, murder always causes injury, both to an individual and to society, and is punished appropriately.

In contrast, underage drinking is an act that almost never causes injury. If you compare the numbers of underage drinkers to the number of drunk driving accidents or arrests, or drunken vandalism, or anything else committed by underage drinkers, the percentage of underage drinkers (18-21) who engage in “anti-social” acts are miniscule. Yet all 18-21 year olds are deprived of their liberty. It makes little sense.

Sua

Not a bad idea.

**

Between the two (higher drinking age than driving age vs. higher driving age than drinking age), I’d rather have the former – driving is something that you have to do in America today (yes, there are exceptions – I’m one of them – but ninety-plus percent of people drive to work, and that number ain’t going down any time soon), but drinking isn’t. Therefore, I’d rather that teenagers get as much experience as possible driving than they get as much experience as possible drinking.

As for the comparisons to Europe, please bear the following in mind:
– Driver’s licenses in Europe require more than a year of driver’s school. It’s entirely optional here.
– Europe has tremendously better public transportation than America. I lived in Germany for three years and could have gone entirely without a car thanks to the bus and train systems.
– The cultures are different. Even if you take away the better public transportation, America is cars. Our culture is entirely suited to them. Germans are absolutely bewildered at the thought of a drive-in movie. They don’t even like drive-through windows at fast food restaurants. The highways in Europe were built to avoid large cities, not go right through them.
It’s an old aphorism, but it’s still true – In America, we think a hundred years is a long time. In Europe, they think a hundred miles is a long distance. My landlords were aghast when I told them I drive an hour and a half (one way) just about every week for business, and two-and-a-half hours (one way) about every other weekend primarily for pleasure. These were people who took a trip to Canada every year and had taken trips to Asia and Africa. They weren’t rubes, but it astounded them that I’d voluntarily drive that far.

The replies to my OP have been interesting, although i was also hoping that some people who had opposed DUI roadblocks on the other thread would connect the two issues here and give their opinion on the relative restriction of rights in the two cases.

Now, in response to stankow’s position, i’d like to make a couple of points. And before i do, i should say that i’m not trying to argue here that Australians are more responsible drinkers than Americans (or any other national groups, for that matter). Like in any other large group, drinking habits in Australia range from the teetotal to the moderate and sensible to the outrageous and ridiculous. But bear with me.

Based on almost two years’ living in the United States (in Baltimore, but i’ve also been to New York, Boston, Philly, D.C., Nashville, Austin TX, Seattle, Madison WI and various other places), it seems to me that drinking habits are not that different overall than they are in Australia. Statistics at this site show that per capita alcohol consumption in 1998 was slightly higher in Australia than the US, but my guess is that this is partly due to the relatively high rates of teetotalism among certain American groups, mainly due to religious affiliations - something that is not such an issue in Australia.

It seems to me, however, based largely on personal experience and anecdotal evidence, that one of the consequences of a legal drinking age of 21 is that young people tend to drink at parties and private gatherings (especially, at least in university areas, at fraternity and sorority houses) where there is often little supervision (formal or informal), and that this often results in higher levels of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning than occur in more public and regulated settings.

Now, i’m not trying to argue that people get shit-faced drunk at such parties but not at bars, but the public space created by a bar or pub means that certain behaviours are less likely to be condoned. Someone who gets violent or sick is likely to be turfed out by a bouncer, and to be censured by other patrons. In private settings, where the whole aim is often just to get pissed without being caught by the authorities, physical and social limits are more likely to be transgressed - hence the high incidence of alcohol poisoning and date rape at some (NOT ALL, i should stress) such parties. For those interested in the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption in certain college-affiliated organizations, check out the book by Hank Nuwer, Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities, Hazing, and Binge Drinking (1999).

Again, i should stress that i’m not arguing here that Americans are somehow genetically or nationally predisposed to such behaviour any more than Australians are. What i am saying is that i believe there are certain social benefits to be gained from adopting a less rigid and more socially inclusive attitude to alcohol consumption among young people. Treating young people like adults will certainly result in dissappointment at times, as some will no doubt continue to act like children, but it might also result in more responsible drinking behaviour on the part of those who are grateful to be able to hang out and have a few drinks in the pub or at home, without going to the trouble of concealing their behaviour from the authorities.

As others have pointed out on this thread, if we determine who should and should not drink simply by looking at how responsibly people consume alcohol, then there are plenty of people well over the age of 21 who should never be allowed another drop in their lives.

Mr2001’s suggestion of two mutually exclusive licences for those aged 18-21 is an interesting idea, although the logistics of adopting such a program would be a nightmare. But it does bring me back to the question i asked in the OP - is there any logical connection or disjuncture between opposing DUI roadblocks and opposing age-18 drinking laws? Or between supporting both? etc.

Well, except that the subject matters partially overlap - underage drinkers may also drive, and people stopped at roadblocks (sober or not) may be under the age of 21, the two issues don’t really overlap.

I suppose there is an ideological overlap - libertarians and civil libertarians (of which I am one) would argue that both represent an unwarranted reduction in an individual’s civil liberties in favor of expediency. But under that viewpoint, there isn’t much call for an analysis of the relative restriction of rights. Rights shouldn’t be restricted unless absolutely necessary.

Sua

Issuing a drinking license would also make it possible to revoke the right to drink from those who abuse it.

What bothers me most about an age restriction on drinking is that an 18-year-old is prohibited from drinking because of the mere suspicion that he can’t handle alcohol, but a 21-year-old who demonstrates an inability to handle alcohol is not.

As long as you’re over 21, you can get drunk and beat up the neighbors, and the closest you’ll come to losing your drinking privileges is a court order saying “don’t drink alcohol”… which the guy selling you beer won’t even ask about.

Yes, please try to enlighten me O Wise One. :rolleyes:

I’m a veteran , you dumbass. I know exactly what I am talking about.

Sure there are rules to follow when you are on the range, but your whole point is that 18-21 year olds are incapable of following the rules. They’re too immature to make the right decision about drinking and driving, Remember?

Noone was ever holding my hand when I manned my M-16, M-60, M-2, M-19, M-203 during live fire exercises. No one held my hand when I drove a deuce-and-a-half, a five-ton, an LMTV, or an FMTV. I had to act responsibly all on my own. I tossed hand grenades and detonated Claymores with as much maturity as a lifer. I and hundreds of thousands of young men and women just like me performed our tasks quite admirably.

The dangerous items mentioned above are handled by just about every recruit during his/her first year in the Army. Some handle weapons systems with damage capabilities much greater than these. Some operate machinery that literally costs BILLIONS of dollars and jeopardize THOUSANDS of lives. Lay out any drunk driving scenario that can possivly compare to that.

We give 18 year olds in this country much more dangerous weapons than alcohol, yet we trust them to behave responsibly and they do. It is incredibly insulting to tell those young men and women that you believe that they are old enough to DIE for their country, but not old enough to make responsible decisions on their own.

Why is the argument only limited to youth in the military? This is your stipulation, not mine. It’s not illegal for an 18 year old to purchase a firearm in the civilian sector. Nobody issues the gun to these young people, hovers over them while they possess it, then locks it back up for them when they’re through target shooting. They have total responsibility for it themselves.

Your assertion that an 18 year old can’t “hang out” with a gun is utterly absurd.