Something that not everyone is aware of, when it comes to drunk driving laws, is that the legal drinking age does not necessarily have to be 21. Criminal laws, like those for driving under the influence (DUI), are state laws, not federal ones. As a result, states have the ability to choose whether to outlaw drinking over the age of 21, or 18, or any other age. However, this choice is not without repercussions: In 1984, the federal government enacted the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which strips states of federal highway funding if they have a minimum drinking age of something other than 21 years old.
Nevertheless, states often consider forgoing this source of funding, in order to change their minimum drinking laws to something lower on the basis of studies showing that this might make roadways safer.
New Hampshire is only the most recent state to consider making the change.
Bill Proposal in New Hampshire Would Lower Drinking Age
Legislators in New Hampshire are currently considering a proposed bill that would lower its legal drinking age from 21 to 18.
The bill does not grant 18 to 20-year-olds the same complete freedom to drink alcohol as adults over 21, though. Instead, they would only be able to drink while in the company of an adult. Additionally, drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 would have to abide by a stricter drunk driving law – instead of the legal limit being a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or above, it would be 0.05%.
The U.S. has one of the highest legal drinking ages in the world – most of the rest of the world has a minimum drinking age of only 18.
However, young adults have shown that they will be able to get their hands on alcohol, even if it is illegal for them to drink it. Precisely because it is illegal for them to have alcohol, though, they often binge drink, leading to higher degrees of intoxication and poorer decision making. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 28% of the drivers under 21 who were killed in a car crash had alcohol in their system, and 24% had a BAC over the legal limit of 0.08%.
By making it legal for people 18 and up to drink alcohol, they would not have to binge drink in order to avoid getting caught, and will likely drink more responsibly, cutting down on the number of road fatalities caused by alcohol.
DUI-Defense Attorney Steve Karimi
If New Hampshire's bill does pass, it would still be the only state in the U.S. that lets people under 21 drink legally. Until the movement catches on, people under 21 who get arrested for DUI will be facing tough charges. Seattle DUI-defense attorney Steve Karimi has copious experience and a proven track record defending against these charges. Contact his law office at (206) 621-8777 or online.