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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Logical plan needed to change drinking laws

 I've never actually heard someone say ""thank goodness the drinking age is 21! Remember how bad it was back before in the '60's?"" The idea that the drinking age should be 18 is more or less a given, especially here in Wisconsin. Even though most of us disagree, we continue to ticket our fellow citizens who are old enough to die for their country, vote and live on their own. The reason for the gap between what the public thinks and does and the laws our politicians continue to support is the lack of a safe, cost-effective plan to lower Wisconsin's drinking age.

Before we can make progress on issues such as binge drinking and drunk driving, we must change the drinking age to 18. Just take a look around campus on the weekends. Even though this is a college campus, there is so much underage drinking on weekends one would think it were legal. The binge drinking we see has not decreased but rather continued to worsen under our current system.

Opponents of lowering the legal drinking age reference the federal highway funding Wisconsin would lose

yes"">  if we change our laws. This is true— we would lose millions of dollars in highway funds if we do not comply with federal regulations. But think of everything we would gain. The brain drain we are experiencing could be ended. In the same way that marijuana laws are convenient for more open-minded California residents, citizens of Wisconsin would benefit from realistic drinking legislation. The increase in tax revenue and economic stimulus we would experience could easily offset highway losses. With thousands of new tax-paying residents and millions of 18-to-21-year-olds drinking in public instead of illegally at house parties, the financial windfall would be enormous.

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But any plan to reduce the drinking age must reach beyond explaining the monetary aspects of such an gigantic cultural shift. It must explain to critics how allowing 18-year-olds to drink is going to decrease, rather than increase, irresponsible alcohol use. The new method must mirror our current drivers licensing program so as to include education, a probationary period and consequences for misuse of this new responsibility. Like our drivers, Wisconsin drinkers should have to obtain a license.

Teenagers who wish to apply for a drinkers license should only be able to do so after satisfactory completion of a drinkers education course. The course should include information about drinking and driving, alcohol poisoning, sexual assault and other relevant issues. After passing the test, Wisconsin residents, and only Wisconsin residents, would be issued a temporary drinkers license. If during the probationary period they could prove themselves to be responsible, they, and every future resident wishing to drink, would be issued a permanent drinkers license.

This system would provide numerous advantages over our current situation. Every resident would be educated and know that drunken driving or other dangerous drinking- related behavior could lead to the revocation of their Drinkers license. By implementing, a license and lowering the drinking age we would gain a new tactic for fighting problem drinking in all age groups. Instead of showing a drivers license to prove their age, all legal residents, regardless of age, would show their drinkers license. Those who prove they are responsible would have no trouble getting a drink. Those who are dangerous would lose their drinking license. In addition, we will have an incentive to keep those who are under 18 from drinking. Any minors who are caught drinking without their parents would not be eligible for their drinkers licenses until they turned 21.

Changing our drinking age is the only method that will enable Wisconsin to deal with its alcohol issues in a productive manner. Rather than punishing our citizens and segregating them by age, a licensing program would educate the public and give them the benefit of the doubt. We must change our laws to offer incentives for responsible drinking and functional consequences for behavior we wish to discourage.

Lowering the drinking age would give teenagers something to work toward. In addition, they would receive the education they need to become the adults our society needs them to be. If we lower the Wisconsin drinking age to 18 and institute a drinkers license, we will not only save money, we will rid ourselves of a culture that promotes binge drinking and discriminates against our young citizens.

Andrew Carpenter is a senior majoring in communication arts and psychology. We welcome all feedback. Please send responses to





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