Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and AAA officials issued heated statements last week, opposing a group of more than 100 college presidents and officials who have called on lawmakers to re-examine the legal drinking age of 21, in an effort to reduce binge-drinking on campus. And while the proposal smacks of college administrators simply looking to avoid responsibility for the (admittedly) gargantuan task of stopping underage/binge drinking on campus, we certainly can’t argue that the issue of how young people view alcohol is an important one.


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and AAA officials issued heated statements last week, opposing a group of more than 100 college presidents and officials who have called on lawmakers to re-examine the legal drinking age of 21, in an effort to reduce binge-drinking on campus.

And while the proposal smacks of college administrators simply looking to avoid responsibility for the (admittedly) gargantuan task of stopping underage/binge drinking on campus, we certainly can’t argue that the issue of how young people view alcohol is an important one.

We’ve argued several times on the editorial page that if you go strictly by the numbers, alcohol could very well be treated the same as other illegal drugs. Its potential for addiction, its clear, often-visible effects on people and drunk-driving stats throughout the nation offer rock-solild evidence of the dangerous effects of alcohol.

But its social prevalence in mainstream media and at most adult functions contributes to the skewed view that it is somehow less dangerous than other drugs.

But the statistics just don’t bear that out.

According to MADD, more than 41 percent of 42,642 U.S. traffic fatalities in 2006 were alcohol-related. In less than two months, the state’s Checkpoint Strikeforce, which began its summer campaign on June 27, has racked up nearly 170 DUIs, as opposed to 89 arrests for all other drugs combined.

North and central America are among the only places in the world where .08 is the legal blood-alcohol-content limit. In almost every other country in the world, it ranges between .02 and .05.

According to the National Highway Safety Adminstration’s 2006 report, more than 31 percent of traffic fatalities in 2006 involved a driver whose BAC was .08 or above.

But is lowering the drinking age the solution? Most likely not. What is needed is to change the perception that alcohol is some sort of forbidden fruit that’s the secret to a good time.

Because for more than 40,000 people in the U.S. every year (and those are just the traffic deaths, not counting binge-drinking deaths and other alcohol-related accidents), it leads to a very bad time.