60 Minutes on Lowering the Drinking Age


The video below aired a couple of weeks ago, but it's a pretty good look at the drinking age debate, with lots of camera time for Amethyst Initiative founder John McCardell.

(Note: If video isn't working below, you can watch it here.)

One quibble: At one point in the segment, Lesley Stahl suggests that the "conundrum" for policymakers is that raising the drinking age has reduced alcohol-related traffic fatalities, but may be contributing to fatalities associated with underage binge drinking.

But there may not be a conundrum at all. When I interviewed McCardell for the February issue of Reason, he explained why the argument that raising the drinking age is responsible for the 20-year drop in highway deaths doesn't hold water:

There has been a decline in traffic fatalities. But it began in 1982, two years before the law changed. It has basically been flat or inching upward for the last decade.

More interestingly, the decline has come in every age group, not just people between 18 and 21. And if you look at Canada, where the minimum drinking age is 18 or 19 [depending on the province], the trend in highway fatalities has almost exactly paralleled ours. It's far more likely that the reduction in deaths is due to seat belt use, airbags, and safer cars.

Not to mention the enormously successful public awareness campaign Mothers Against Drunk Driving began in the early 1980s. MADD today has veered off into neoprohibition. But there's no question their PR campaign changed attitudes about drunk driving.

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