University presidents seek to lower drinking age, Shalala says it could cost lives

The national drinking age has been 21 since 1984, but recently about 100 U.S. universities created quite a stir by signing a statement asking lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age to 18.

The statement, a part of the Amethyst Initiative, argues that the 21-year-old drinking age encourages binge drinking among college students. It was not signed by University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala.

“Lowering the drinking age would cost lives,” Shalala said. “We cannot pretend that changing the age will save lives and I’m not willing to be in favor of something that is inconsistent with research.”

Shalala also said the current law saves 1,000 lives a year.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) President Laura Dean-Mooney agreed with Shalala. In a press release, she said that the current drinking age has reduced drunk driving and underage and binge drinking.

The number of 16- to 20-year-old drunk drivers killed annually has fallen by half since the 21-year-old drinking age was passed, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety,

Shalala has asked every leader, including those from Ohio State University, Duke University, Dartmouth College and Johnson and Wales University, to reconsider.

“I lived in an era and ran universities when the drinking age was 18,” Shalala said. “I saw young people die, and I don’t want to take the responsibility of going against what science says.”

Some students, on the other hand, are in favor of lowering the drinking age.

“Just because alcohol is more accessible doesn’t mean they’re going to drink more than they already do,” Eling Tsai, a 20-year-old senior said. “It would also cut down the amount of arrests made for underage drinking at football games.”

Shalala added that when she spoke to students, many were in favor of lowering the age.

“Binge drinking is a serious problem on college campuses, but I believe students are becoming increasingly more responsible,” she said. “At the end of the day, we’re talking about lives and futures.”