Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A belated notice...

Hi all,

Just wanted to let you know (a few months late!) that this blog has been relocated to our website. We hope you will weigh in there with your thoughts on [CR] and the drinking age.

Thanks for participating in this important discussion,
The [CR] team

Friday, June 15, 2007

Equal time for equal crimes?

When we first heard of it, we found this story from Charlottesville, VA impossible to believe. Two parents hosted a birthday party for their 16th year-old son, who claimed he would obtain alcohol and get drunk somewhere else with his friends. So with good intentions, but ultimately bad judgment, Elisa Kelly and her then-husband George Robinson purchased alcohol for the teens at the party. Long story short, the police were called, found that 16 of the party-goers had measurable BACs (though none even approached .08--generally defined as the point of intoxication), and the Robinsons were charged with 16 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. They were convicted in 2003 and sentenced to eight years each in prison. Eight years far exceeds the sentence for many heinous crimes in the US--notably, writer Lisa Provence points to the case of a UVA student who fatally stabbed a police officer 18 times. His sentence for killing another man? 31 months. In a related article, Provence brings up a case that had taken place in the Charlottesville area a few months before the Robinson's party. A 16 year-old girl was killed when a car she was riding crashed. Both she and the driver were intoxicated. The sentences for the two teens charged with providing the alcohol that led to Brittany Bishop's death? 10 days for the minor and 30 for the boy who was over 18.

On June 11, Elisa Kelly and George Robinson went to jail to serve 27 months each (their sentences were reduced upon appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court). In the intervening years between the 2002 party and this week, they divorced. Their son dropped out of high school, their house burned down, and Elisa Kelly faced bankruptcy.

In the face of a monstrous legal ordeal that destroyed the fabric of a family and has stunned many American parents, some of the most acute failings of Legal Age 21 emerge. John McCardell comments, "This very sad episode reminds us that current law disenfranchises parents from any role in attempting to create a safe environment...In this particular case, the parental impulse may have been misguided, but the more general question posed by this incident is whether the law ought properly to displace parental judgment entirely, because any parental role is effectively eliminated by the law until a child turns 21." This case is extreme, but points to a policy that actively discourages parental responsibility while fostering a climate of illegality, recklessness, and excess amongst their children.

For more about this case:

The Times (London)

The Washington Post

Thursday, May 31, 2007

[CR] on NECN

New England Cable News came to Middlebury this past week to interview John McCardell and members of Choose Responsibility about the ineffectiveness of the 21 year-old drinking age. Here's their story:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More proof that Legal Age 21 isn't working

Take a minute to read this article, and the comments that follow for another example of the puzzling inconsistencies posed to young adults by Legal Age 21.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Alcohol and the Family

Binge drinking continues to be a serious health problem in the both the US and the UK and solutions to curb dangerous alcohol consumption are allusive. A study released in the UK earlier this month found that when parents provided alcohol to their children in a family environment, children were less likely to engage in binge drinking and experience negative drinking outcomes. The findings come from a survey of 10,271 15-16 students in North West England published in the online journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy.

"Such family consumption," writes lead researcher Marc Bellis, "may help open up an early dialog about alcohol between parents and children. It allows youths to experiment with alcohol in a family setting with positive parental role models rather than outside the family with pressure from peers to consume to excess." And it is from this experiential learning that these young adults come to learn responsible drinking practices.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Worldwide Decline in Drinking and Driving

While this research is not new, it is worth revisiting. In 1993 traffic safety experts convened from six countries to report on progress against the drinking and driving problem. Statistical records kept from 1982-1992 for alcohol-related traffic fatalities in each of the following countries show the following trends:

United Kingdom: 50% Decline
Germany: 37% Decline
Australia: 32% Decline
The Netherlands: 28% Decline
Canada: 28% Decline
United States: 26% Decline

This downward trend in drunk driving across the board shows quite clearly that the 21 year-old drinking age in the United States was, at best, the least effective measure to limit drunk driving amongst these developed countries and, more likely, is falsely credited as the key to changing social mores that in fact changed across all industrialized countries with no drinking age changes. Amongst these six countries only the US raised the drinking age (in 1984) to curb drunk driving; others adopted policies that recognized drinking and driving as an especially dangerous outcome of irresponsible drinking behavior. Rather than target drinking, they targeted behavior. Nearly all countries stepped up intoxicated driving enforcement and lowered legal BAC level. The Netherlands, recognizing that drinking and driving was a behavior best limited if prevented early, lowered BAC levels further for young drivers. Not a single country outside of the US lowered the drinking age, and yet every last one of them managed to reduce alcohol-related fatalities at higher rates than the US. It would seem that the drinking age then is the least effective way to reduce drinking and driving.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lower Drinking Age For Marines

The Marine Corps Times reported this last week that on April 19 US Marine Corps commandant General James T. Conway issued a change of alcohol policies for Marines under the age of 21. The new rules decriminalize welcome-home beer for underage Marines returning from deployment and giving commanders the authority to hold an 18-and-up kegger on base upon a unit’s return from a war zone. According to North County Times of San Diego, a 1995 rule dictated that underage marines were held to drinking age of the states in which they were stationed. Permitting alcohol consumption is now at the discretion of base commanders.

In addition to this domestic policies, Marines will now be held accountable to the legal drinking age laws of the countries they are stationed in. Previously, Marines under 21 were forced to abide by the 21 year-old drinking age even if the laws made it legal for 18 year-olds to drink. Under the new policies marines will be held to the laws of the country in which they are stationed. If the drinking age is an age lower than 18, an 18 year-old legal drinking age will be enforced. This should be of minimal consequence because of those 17 year-old recruits that exist in the marines few, it would seem, would still be 18 upon deployment.

Critics of the law suggest that increased access to alcohol could lead to increased alcohol-related traffic fatalities for marines stationed at home. However, the marines quoted in the above articles, all of whom support the law, suggest that because these underage marines are already drinking, the new rule will provide an incentive to bring that drinking back on base under the control of the base commander.