December 1, 2013
The History of Drinking and Driving
Alcohol wasn’t always a legal substance. There was an era called Prohibition that put a nationwide ban on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of all alcoholic beverages. "This ban lasted from 1920 to 1933 and it was mandated under the 18th Amendement” (“Fleming”) . There are four main reasons as to why Prohibition was introduced in the United States; medical, economic, political, and social reasons. People were unaware of the long term health effects that alcohol consumption had on the body. Issues such a liver damage and lung cancer from smoking cigarettes were big problems during this time. In regards to the economy, it was popular with workers to drink on this job. This caused many injuries and absences on the job. During this era, people were having a lot of fun. Men were partying and staying out late, while wives were at home taking care of the family. Prohibition was favored by many and hated by others. On December 5, 1933 Prohibition came to an end. The 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment. “Prohibition, failing fully to enforce sobriety and costing billions, rapidly lost popular support in the early 1930s”("Prohibition Ends"). After prohibition ended the legal drinking age changed a number of times. “The Original ABC Act stated that the legal age for possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages would be twenty one years old” ("History of the Legal Drinking Age"). Forty years later, the legal drinking age for the consumption of beer was lowered from twenty one to eighteen. Twenty one years old remained the legal drinking age for the consumption of wine and alcohol. Nine years later, in 1981, the legal drinking age for beer consumption stayed at eighteen for drinking on premises, and was raised to nineteen for drinking off premises. Two years later, in 1983, the legal drinking age for the consumption of beer anywhere was changed to nineteen years old. In 1966, anyone born on or after July 1, 1966 was able to buy any alcoholic beverage on their twenty first birthdays. In 1987, the legal drinking age for all alcoholic beverages for everyone was raised to twenty one years old. To this date, the age remains twenty one years old. As familiar as we are to the drinking age of twenty one, many Americans aren’t aware that there is no national minimum drinking age. Each state is allowed to set the drinking age to what ever they chose. As true as this may be, each state abides by the legal drinking age of twenty one. This is because in 1984 when the National Minimum Drinking Act was passed, if any state decided to lower the age, this act will withhold a percentage of federal highway funding from those states due to the subtantial amount of drunk driving accidents, many called by under age and young drivers. Our nation, The United States of America, “is only one of four nations worldwide with a drinking age as high as twenty one” ("The History of MADD"). The other three nations include Indonesia, Mongolia, and Palau. Setting the legal drinking age to twenty one “was only one of 39 recommendations offered in a comprehensive approach to fight drunk driving in the 1980s” (Mooney, Knox, & Schacht, 2000, pp. 10-16) . Things like mandatory seatbelt laws, increased law enforcment, lowering the legal BAC limit to .08, tougher DUI laws, and massive public informaion campaigns have been helpful in reducing the instance of driving under the influence and alcohol-related deaths on the road. So when did drinking and driving come in to play? Actually, drinking and driving has been around forever. The first drinking and driving arrest occurred in 1897 in London. The driver was twenty five year old George Smith. While under the influence of alcohol, Smith crashed his cab into a building. Smith plead guilty and he was fined 25 shillings for his actions. Between 1897 and Prohibition there were many other drinking and driving...
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