Legal Drinking Age Debate at Bridgewater College

The ongoing national debate about the legal drinking age resurfaced at Bridgewater College Thursday night.

Students were shown recent studies that challenge both sides of the issue: the people for dropping the age to 18 and those who are for keeping it at 21.

As an author, former "Time Magazine" correspondent and parent, Barrett Seaman knows the legal drinking age issue isn't easy.

"My conversations with my daughters were probably pretty much the same as every parent's conversation with their children when they come of age,"
says Seaman.

He says young adults should be allowed to drink at 18, but he admits it's not without risk.

"It's a very tough issue when you have liability laws," says Seaman.

During the debate, Seaman spoke of studies, including one co-authored by his opponent, that say a legal drinking age of 21 had little effect in preventing alcohol abuse and related deaths.

He's says the current drinking age only causes underage people to abuse alcohol more. He gave one example called "pre-gaming," which is when students consume large amounts of alcohol before an activity, because they know they can't legally drink in public.

His opponent disagrees.

"We're talking about maybe 800 to 900 lives that we estimate a legal drinking age of 21 is saving each year. If we lower it back to 18, we could be killing 800 to 900 more youth," says James Fell.

Fell is a senior program director for the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. He displayed several studies that suggest lowering the drinking age is dangerous.

One study claims the current law reduce traffic fatalities by 11 percent. Seaman challenged that statistic saying the decline in traffic fatalities was happening before the legal drinking age was set at 21.

Fell showed another study that says some countries where the drinking age is lower are looking to raise it.