On Saturday night, April 30th, my parents were awoken at 2 in the morning by a loud crash outside their bedroom window. When they walked outside to our front yard to see what the cause was, they saw a broken streetlight that had fallen on their car, a good Samaritan that was talking to police, and an obviously drunk man falling over the seat of his car onto the pavement and being escorted away by police. This man had gotten into his car intoxicated and rammed his vehicle into a light post hard enough to knock it over. His engine had failed and he continuously tried to start the car and drive away, but not before the sober and alarmed driver behind him called the cops and reported him.
My purpose in telling you that little story was not to persuade you not to drink and drive nor am I saying that alcohol is completely bad for you. I am just trying to make you understand the reasons for alcohol laws in our country and why they should be followed. It’s not only to avoid situations like the one above, but to reconsider why you pick up a beer when you know you shouldn’t.
In the United States, teenage drinking is a bigger problem than in most other countries. Even in countries such as Germany and Italy, where the legal drinking age is as low as 16 years, teenagers under the age of 20 do not drink as much as teenagers in the United States.
Even with a legal age set at 21, American teenagers start drinking at younger ages every year. This year, according to SADD, nearly three quarters of students (72%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and more than a third (37%) have done so by eighth grade. This makes the average drinking age 14 years old. This is a fact and I’m sure that no one reading this article will find it the least bit surprising.
Now here is a fact that really is surprising: the majority of parents of teenage drinkers KNOW that their kids drink and DON’T do anything about it. Adults choose to ignore it and see underage drinking as a part of growing up. In fact, most teenagers get alcohol from their parents or legal drinkers that they know. This mentality is the key factor in rising numbers of teenage drinking. Teenagers look to parents for guidance and support more so than any other adult in their lives. If parents say it’s okay to drink then children will follow that example regardless of what higher authorities say.
With alcohol easily at hand, we have to look into why teenagers drink so often. They have been taught the consequences, both regarding their health and legally, but that doesn’t scare many. In fact, it has become the norm for teenagers to drink alcohol regularly.
Looking at it more personally, teenagers don’t deny their party habits. From reasons ranging from, “It makes girls prettier,” to, “I wanna have a good time,” most high school and even middle school students drink at home, outside, and especially at parties.
It may seem normal to many people, but drinking excessively at any age is not healthy. It’s a common argument: I only drink when I’m a party, not all the time. What students don’t understand is that drinking excessively on a short amount of time is more detrimental to health than drinking a little every day. Drinking till you’re drunk is bad at any age. That’s not an okay to have a beer every night because either way, alcohol damages adolescent bodies. It can kill brain cells, take years off your life, and just simply makes you drunk to a point when you’re not able to make clear decisions.
The legal limit isn’t set just to protect teenage health issues either. It is set for an age when, hopefully, people will become mature adults and become smart enough to understand the consequences of drinking excessive alcohol, how much to drink, when to drink, and most importantly, when to stop.
I’m sure that I haven’t convinced many teenagers to refuse that beer at a party or adults that insist on driving when they are over the legal limit. But, I have made you aware of the consequences that you are choosing. It may now be the norm for kids to drink during their teenage years, but that doesn’t make it acceptable or safe for anyone.