The legal drinking age could have tangible consequences of reducing traffic accidents, suicide and assault.
That’s what the findings of a study by two Boston University School of Public Health researchers showed. A review was published Monday by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
The research, collected since 2006, indicated that the age-21 drinking laws are associated with lower rates of drunken driving accidents and other dangers of excessive drinking, including suicide, sexual assault and unprotected sex, according to the review.
UF College of Medicine professor Alex Wagenaar said there is no question that keeping the drinking age at 21 causes fewer drunken driving accidents.
“It doesn’t solve the problem completely, but it has a significant effect,” he said.
Wagenaar has researched the effects of alcohol for many years. He wrote a book called “Alcohol, Young Drivers, and Traffic Accidents: Effects of Minimum-age Laws,” in 1983, when the question of whether to lower the drinking age was being discussed.
Wagenaar said he thinks the scientific research speaks for itself in showing the realistic positives of keeping the drinking age at 21, and it’s unlikely that the drinking age will be lowered any time soon.
“People don’t want to deal with more teenagers dying,” he said.
About 10,000 car crashes where alcohol was the leading cause were reported in 2012, according to Florida Department of Transportation data. Statewide, 25 fatal, alcohol-related crashes were reported among people ages 15 to 19, and 133 fatal crashes were reported among people ages 20 to 24.
Chris Loschiavo, associate dean of students and director of student conflict and resolution at UF, said he was not surprised by the results of the study.
Based on his 15 years of experience dealing with student-conduct issues, he said alcohol is probably the biggest challenge his office faces.
There are about one to two alcohol-poisoning transports reported on UF’s campus each weekend and about 20 to 30 drunken driving cases on campus each year, Loschiavo said. The majority of these people charged with driving under the influence are below the age of 21.
“Often times, one of the things that get into the way is when students get into this drinking culture,” he said. ”It’s hard to get out of it once you start.”
Kristi Maconi, a 20-year-old UF finance junior, said lowering the drinking age would not have a drastic effect on the number of drunken driving cases.
“As a college student, if you have access to alcohol, you’re going to drink anyways,” she said. “So lowering the drinking age wouldn’t really affect the number of people drinking and driving.”
Briana Felitti, a 20-year-old UF accounting junior, said she agreed.
“Whether you’re 18 or 22 and you’re thinking about drinking and driving, if you’re going to get into a car, you’re going to get into a car,” she said.
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 2/26/2014 under the headline “Alcohol age limit linked to reduced drunken driving"]