The Logistics of Lowering New Jersey’s Drinking Age to 18

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25) has proposed lowering the drinking age in New Jersey from 21 to 18.

This is an issue that Republican and Democrat citizens alike, all throughout the nation, have often discussed.

Assemblyman Carroll was quoted to cite the usual argument for lowering the drinking age to 18; being able to join and serve in the military at 18, yet not being able to have a beer.

Internationally, drinking ages are often below the age of 21, with 115 countries holding their drinking age between 18 and 19. It can be argued that the United States is the only “developed nation” that holds its drinking age at 21.

Iceland, Japan, Paraguay, Thailand, and Uzbekistan hold their drinking age at 20 years old.

The issue here, with Assemblyman Carroll’s proposal, is that New Jersey would likely lose federal funding for its highway systems during a time in which nobody knows the future fate of the Transportation Trust Fund. New Jersey’s roads are strapped for cash as it is!

The United States raised the drinking age to 21 with the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. This act told the states that they would lose up to ten percent of their federal highway funding for any legal drinking age below the age of 21.

Advocacy groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) rejected the proposal and cited more than 800 lives a year being saved due to the higher drinking age of 21.

Logistically speaking, I think the assemblyman needs to rethink his proposal and consider New Jersey’s dire need for all of the funding available for road repairs.

Personally, there is something to be said about his quote about younger people being more responsible than when he was a teenager. Frankly, we don’t ever hear that from our elders!

However, I think I’ll side with MADD here, and with the logistics of funding highways, and reject a New Jersey-centered drinking age of 18. I remember a speech given by the late-Senator Frank Lautenberg on Rutgers-Camden’s campus. He explained that the difference in legal drinking ages between New York and New Jersey resulted in an ugly pattern of motor vehicle deaths between the two states due to intoxication, and that was why he sponsored the bill in the U.S. Senate. I can imagine a similar pattern reoccurring in present day if New Jersey would legally sell alcohol to 18 year olds, no matter how mature we may be as a generation.

(I know we use to travel to PA for cigars when we were teenagers. The legal tobacco buying age in NJ was 19, in PA it was 18)

I can’t imagine 18 year olds crossing the bridges after being in the bars and clubs of Philadelphia and making it home safely; Uber or no Uber.

A drinking age that would be 3 years younger than the legal age of 3 other surrounding states may result in an influx of teenagers traveling to one legally vending state. I don’t see how New Jersey wouldn’t recreate the catastrophes Senator Lautenberg saw along state boundaries in the 80’s, so I think a lower drinking age really does need to be a national conversation.

If you serve in the military you should be able to have a drink, I believe. It makes sense and we’ve all heard it before. England, Spain, Germany, and most of South America have found ways to make a universally lower drinking age work throughout their societies. I’m sure that the United States could too, but we should pay mind to not recreate a perfect storm for out-of-state teenagers. The drinking age should be the same across the nation in order to prevent teenagers from becoming overzealous about their cognitive abilities and traveling longer-than-average distances to bars or clubs in other states.

Perhaps Assemblyman Carroll can recommend the idea to Congressman Frelinghuysen, who represents his legislative district on the federal level.

P.S. For new readers, I’m 22 so I totally remember my (recent) struggle of still not being able to drink and go out at 20 years old. But, there’s more to consider sometimes than just the struggle….

Comments (2)

  1. Douglas John Bowen

    There’s a suburban bias built into this argument. If one lives within “stumbling distance” of a bar or restaurant, and need not drive to/from same, why must the drinking age be so rigid?

    I’ll buy into the writer’s belief that roads are more important than drinking liberties, but even that is a roundabout nod to the power of automania. A shame.

    Reply
  2. Brian K Everett (Post author)

    Guilty as charged for writing with a suburban bias. I also understand your point for people being able to drink within a “stumbling distance”, thus never needing to drive. However, I think my point is, when we have a lower drinking age in one place no matter where that place is, we will still have to deal with the people from outside of that one place coming in for drinks, and most likely driving. I don’t mean to nod to automania, but it is what it is. People will cross state lines in order to drink at a younger age.

    Reply

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