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Sober facts

Prashanth Parameswaran lauds fact-based reasoning in his column dismissing the efforts of the Amethyst Initiative to encourage renewed consideration of the legal drinking age (“Drunk beyond reason,” Sept. 18), but he provides us few facts and poor reasoning. If Parameswaran had more truthfully represented the group’s point of view, Cavalier Daily readers would know that the evidence is not as clear and one-sided as he claims.
For example, while Parameswaran points out that binge drinking rates among college students declined following the increase in the drinking age, research cited on the Amethyst Initiative’s Web site shows that drinking declined among Americans of all ages during the same period. This suggests that the correlation he points to may not be caused by the policy change. Other findings cited by the group indicate that between 1993 and 2001, dangerous drinking behavior by college students who did drink (including frequency of drunkenness and drinking to get drunk) actually increased. The reasonable conclusion here seems to be that the picture is more complex than a linear relationship between drinking age law and behavior might imply.
Noting that alcohol-related traffic fatalities among 16- to 20-year-olds dropped greatly after the drinking age increase, Parameswaran brags that he “could go on and on,” but rests his case because we presumably “get the point.” But wait a minute: Might not the introduction of airbags during this period and the general improvement of vehicle safety have accounted for a lot of the change? We can’t tell, because it’s assumed that all the difference is attributable to the change in the law. Yet one study cited by the Amethyst Initiative showed that Canada and several European countries actually had greater overall reductions in traffic-related traffic fatalities than the United States did in the decade following the age increase.
I hope that Parameswaran, and President Casteen as well, will realize that there are indeed some “facts on the table” and that applying sound logic to them, we might see that a change would do us good.
Matthew Meyer