Two recent rulings in state magistrate courts declaring that the state law prohibiting citizens 18 through 20 years old from possessing or consuming alcohol is unconstitutional may open the door for the legal drinking age to be lowered from 21. Laura Hudson, Executive Director of the South Carolina Crime Victims Council, is adamantly opposed to the possible move. Hudson says having sat with grieving parents who’ve lost teens in auto accidents due to underage drinking, she views the present law as right, prudent, fair, and it saves lives.”Do we continue to control the sale, purchase, and consumption of alcohol to those under 21 and save lives? or do we lower that threshold and invite an embrace the increase of deaths that we know, not expect. but we know is going to ensue, in the name of some liberty of am I free to choose and free to kill and die on the highways.”
Hudson says it all comes down to a matter of public safety.
Hudson says the experimentation with lowering the drinking age that occurred in the 1970’s in 29 states led almost immediately to higher rates of death and injury on the highway due to young people driving under the influence. Hudson says the lowering of the drinking age was spawned out of the Vietnam era which included the draft and the lowering of the voting age. Hudson says the carnage on our nation’s highways proved that youngsters were not ready to handle the responsibility of making the right decisions related to the use of alcohol, so lawmakers nationwide took action.
” By 1988 all states had set 21 as the minimum drinking age, even South Carolina. Since that time the law has saved at least 900 lives per year. In short, there are more than 17,000 young people alive today since all the states adopted the law since 1988.”
Hudson says no one concerned for the safety and welfare of young people and everyone else who uses our roads and highways wants to go back to the days when young people could simply drive across state lines where the drinking age was lower.
“Some states kept lower drinking ages in the 70’s and into the early 80’s and it created a patch work of states we call “blood borders.” They were called blood borders because teens would drive across state lines drinking and driving back home across state lines killing and injuring themselves and other innocent folks, so the nation began to take a firm stance on it.”
Hudson says she has seen families literally devastated by underage drinkers deciding to get behind the wheel, which in may cases ends in tragedy where one child is killed and the other is left with the pain of causing the death of a friend because he or she made the wrong decision.
“Your heart goes out to both sets of parents because one set of parents is experiencing the death of their child which is the ultimate sorrow, while the other set of parents is experiencing their child paying criminally and having to go to jail for killing someone.”
Hudson says she takes solace in the fact that rulings by magistrates are not binding on any other judge in the state. the rulings would become law in the state only if upheld by the State Supreme Court or the state Court of Appeals.