Amsterdam: Drinking Age
While I love my country deeply, I fear that the people running the place have lost their common sense. We live in an environment where stores mandate identification checks of everyone who purchases alcohol, even those with grey hair and wrinkles. Our country allows young men and women to join the armed forces at the age of 18, a decision that in these times most certainly has the potential of putting their lives in harm’s way, but doesn’t trust them to be responsible with alcohol, not even beer or wine.
And so it was refreshing to see that the liquor laws in the Netherlands remained logical and fair, punishing only those who make bad decisions (drive drunk once, lose your license forever) instead of an entire population.
Loosely translated using my mediocre Dutch: “Alcohol for those under age 16, of course not!” And they’re only going to bug you for ID if you look under 20 which unfortunately, but realistically, I did not.
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I can’t remember the last time I was carded. I’m not sure I would enjoy being card each and every time.
My Dad is in his 60s. And he is a man of principles. If he is asked to show ID that he is over 21, when he is clearly more than double that age, with silver hair and a few wrinkles, he will simply walk out of the store and not spend his money with them. I’ve been with him when he’s abandoned an entire case of wine at the check-out due to truly stupid policies.
When you said, “which unfortunately, but realistically, I did not”, it made me laugh because whenever we go into a bar or a casino, I always love to give the person checking ID a hard time. When they check the ID of the young people in front of us and then don’t ask for ours, I always say, “Well, don’t you want to see my ID?” I love the awkward reactions we get as they try to figure out what to say without making us feel old!! LOL
Then I must have a touch of Loony in me, because I’ve done the same thing a time or two before. Ha! 🙂
Not only in the Netherlands, but everywhere else in Europe we have a more relaxed attitude towards alcohol … and, nevertheless, fewer alcoholics than in the US.
I think the key is punishing the right action. In my mind (in part having spent half my childhood in Europe), there is nothing wrong with drinking in moderation and drinking in moderation at a younger age than 21. However drinking and driving is bad. In Europe, if you cross that line, even a little, even once, the consequences are severe. And that’s why drunk driving is so much less of an issue.
The thing is it’s not as simple as we would like it to be. Raising the drinking age to 21 in the United States caused a dramatic decrease in the number of vehicle-related deaths of people under the age of 21.
We are certainly reaching a point where raising the driving age and lowering the drinking age are possibilities – there are a lot of indications that fewer 16-year-olds are intent on getting their licenses asap today than in the past. I don’t think it would be a good idea, though, to lower the drinking age without changing the driving age (for the United States, considering out history).
Cornelia, do you know of any statistics that support that theory? It’s not as if the U.S. is infested with alcoholics. On the other hand, we do tend to like to diagnose alcoholics even when they’re highly functioning and then go ahead and tell everyone about it.
I haven’t looked at the stats in many years, but the last time I reviewed them I remembered them showing that increasing the drinking age had no impact on the age group with the most drunk driving incidents per capita which was a more middle-aged group. (I can’t recall the exact age range. It’s been a long time.)
My belief is simple. You shouldn’t drink and drive. Period. You can hurt yourself. You can hurt others. If you drink at any age, don’t drive. If you make a bad decision and drink and drive, make the punishment so severe that it won’t ever happen again. Most of the countries in Europe are proof that this works.
I also think children should see adults consume alcohol in moderation and be raised so it’s not so taboo, but that’s a different discussion…
I think I wrote a paper on this in college. I happen to agree it’d be better if the age were lower, but I also think a tremendous culture shift would be necessary to make it work. That shift would need to effect not just the way we drink, but the way we drive and think about driving. Difficult, but not impossible. Just going to take some time, you know?
The MLDA affected traffic accidents in those under 21, which really was the point. Most people see young people dying as more tragic than middle-aged people dying, particularly if it’s because of a stupid decision.
I don’t really feel like going really in depth to find research, but here’s a lit review: http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/supportingresearch/journal/wagenaar.aspx
Mmmmm makes me want wine now lol
Oh, yes, a delish glass of red! 🙂