During the mid-term break I had the opportunity to stay in Washington D.C for a few days. The city is a beautiful place, however a bit far by car. After our 10-hour drive, my brother and I decided to have supper in a quaint little Irish pub.
Wanting to enjoy a beer after a long roadtrip, I got my ID ready, knowing how anal Americans get when it comes to alcohol consumption.
The confusion on the waiter’s face wasn’t a surprise as he tried to figure out what the birth date was. I pointed out the “82” and a few seconds later he politely informed me he had to go see his manager.
Either I was heading to Guatanamo Bay for some unknown reason (who needs a reason these days), or my ID wouldn’t be accepted. I found out from the manager that foreign ID wasn’t accepted, unless it was a passport. Who goes to a pub with a passport? Washington is so bureaucratized that you can’t even get drunk without the proper paperwork.
The legal drinking age in the States is 21. Basically you can get your leg blown off in Iraq, but still can’t order a Heineken outside your military base. The United States is one of the only countries where you have to be 21 to legally drink (barring some exceptions). Other countries include Egypt, Oman, Qatar and Tunisia.
Most countries have a legal drinking age of 18 or 19. Canada is one of them. Most provinces have set the legal drinking age at 19. Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec are the exceptions, with the limit set at 18. When I was younger, the drinking age seemed to simply be a suggestion in our fine province. At 17 I could go into bars without much of a hassle. I’ve been told it was harder to buy a pack of cigarettes than get a beer under 18.
While some people may advocate that the legal drinking age in the States is a reasonable one, we shouldn’t be too quick to pick up on their ideals. After all, our southern neighbour is a country where a lot of people believe talking about safe sex is a taboo, so logic might not always be a big factor at play in their arguments.
The point is that teenagers will drink, legally or not. What’s important is educating them on the dangers of alcohol, especially drunk driving.
As much as alcohol consumption is part of our culture, at the risk of sounding like an annoying PSA, it can be a dangerous thing. Too many preventable deaths occur due to impaired driving. According to MADD Canada, 79,000 incidents related to impaired driving were reported in 2004. That’s an enormous amount. However, there is some good news. MADD also reports “between 1994 and 2004, the number of people charged with an impaired driving offence, per 100,000 population decreased 33.5%.”
We need more prevention campaigns. New Mexico introduced talking urinal cakes that incite bar patrons to not drink and drive. An original idea.
We don’t need stricter drinking limits, we need more education. Again with the example of sex-ed in the U.S., just because we don’t talk about it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. For several years now, anti-drinking and driving advertisements have been shown on television. Some of them have been graphic, but the image stays with you.
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