Push to lower drinking age

TRENTON, N.J. - November 17, 2008 - No one disputes that underaged drinking and binge drinking among college students is a problem.

That's why 130 college presidents from around the country have signed what's called the Amethyst Initiative. It's a movement to rethink, and possibly lower, the legal drinking age of 21.

The idea was hatched by John McCardell, the former president of Middelbury College in Vermont who addressed the New Jersey Senate Education Committee, which is gathering information about the issue.

"Such reforms would make colleges and universities more accountable, not less for social life would come out of the shadows and into the sunlight," McCardell said.

Opponents of any attempt to lower the legal drinking age include Mothers Against Drunk Driving, aruging that the higher drinking age reduced highway fatalities, and changing the law would increase binge and underage drinking.

"It would push the problem of underage drinking from college presidents to high school principals," said Mindy Lazar of MADD.

Ramapo College president Peter Mercer told the committee the drinking age should remain 21.

"How could you, as a matter of public policy countenance reducing the drinking age, when all the evidence suggest that if you do so alcohol related injuries and deaths will go up," Mercer said.

A college student who spoke to Action News said lowering the drinking age would give college administrators more authority to address binge drinking.

"The executives in the college would have more say and be able to regulate what's going on if they know more about it," said Rob Lombardo, a student at the College of New Jersey. "It's better than having kids doing it illegally and out of control."

There are clearly marked differences of opinion in the controversial subject, and while lawmakers are getting information, it is not likely the legal drinking age will be coming down any time soon.

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