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US HIgher Legal Drinking Age Saving Lives, Scientists

Update Date: Feb 24, 2014 05:25 PM EST

America's higher legal drinking age law is saving countless lives, according to a new study.

While some advocates want to lower the legal drinking age, new research confirms that the age-21 drinking law helps lower rates of drunk-driving crashes and protects young people from the various dangers of heavy drinking like suicide, dating violence and unprotected sex.

"The evidence is clear that there would be consequences if we lowered the legal drinking age," lead researcher William DeJong, Ph.D., of Boston University School of Public Health, said in a news release.

The latest findings revealed that since 1988 when the legal drinking age was set at 21, young people have been drinking less and are less likely to get into drunk-driving car accidents.

The latest study reviewed previous studies and found that America's higher legal drinking age lowers binge drinking among college students. The latest study revealed that 36 percent of college students reported engaging in heavy episodic drinking in 2011 compared with 43 percent in 1988. The 21-age drinking law also led to larger declines in binge drinking among high school seniors from 35 percent in 1988 to 22 percent in 2011.

Researchers noted that even though many young people break the law and drink anyway, the latest findings show that the law still works. This may be because young people do not want to be caught drinking, and therefore take fewer risks when they do.

Furthermore, researchers note that "there are many young people who do wait until they're 21 to drink."

"Just because a law is commonly disobeyed doesn't mean we should eliminate it," DeJong noted. "Some people assume that students are so hell-bent on drinking, nothing can stop them. But it really is the case that enforcement works."

Researchers noted that findings from many clinical trials reveal that college towns that put more effort into educating and enforcing drinking laws have lower rates of student drinking.

The findings are published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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