There are many controversies and debates surrounding drunk driving and alcohol consumption. One of the oldest and most popular debates concerns the drinking age in the United States. Some feel that the current drinking age of 21, which has the highest minimum legal drinking age in the world, should be lowered to 18. Part of the argument is that the law does not deter teens from drinking and may, in fact, encourage irresponsible drinking.
Opponents argue that the law does prevent people from drinking at younger ages and helps them develop a healthy attitude towards alcohol, making them less likely to develop drinking problems.
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 only states that the public possession of alcoholic beverages by persons under the age of 20 is illegal. Additionally, there are many exceptions to the law that allow persons under 21 to drink. For example, it is permissible when drinking for an established religious purpose, when the drinker is accompanied by a parent, spouse, or legal guardian age 21 or older, and for medical purposes when prescribed by a doctor.
Another source of controversy is the advertisements for alcoholic beverages. The debate questions whether the advertisements increase the consumption of alcohol and whether the ads target teens. Recently, a Federal Trade Commission report to Congress stated that no evidence was found that the ads target underage consumers. However, the Center for Science in the Public Interest released another report saying that both teenagers and adults believe that liquor and beer companies target young people with their advertising.
A new gadget designed to deter drunk drivers, the ignition interlock device, has received some criticism. An ignition lock is a machine that is connected to a car’s ignition and checks the driver’s blood alcohol content level. The driver has to blow into the machine to start the car and do so from time to time while the car is running. If alcohol is detected, the car either does not start or turns itself off.
People question whether the devices really work because there is nothing stopping a drunk driver from getting someone who is sober to blow into the device to start the car. Another side to the debate is that courts order the devices to be installed, but there is no monitoring system in place to verify that this has been done.
Blue Laws, which date back to the Puritan era as a way of imposing religious doctrines on the public’s behavior, ban the sale of alcohol on Sundays. Many people believe that these laws should be overturned because they are unconstitutional. Studies have found that there is no increase in alcohol related traffic crashes or deaths in states such as New Mexico that have lifted the ban on Sunday alcohol sales.