The minimum legal drinking age: History, effectiveness, and ongoing debate

Traci L. Toomey, Carolyn Rosenfeld, Alexander C. Wagenaar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) laws provide an example of how scientific research can support effective public policies. Between 1970 and 1975, 29 States lowered their MLDA's; subsequently, scientists found that traffic crashes increased significantly among teenagers. Alcohol use among youth is related to many problems, including traffic crashes, drownings, vandalism, assaults, homicides, suicides, teenage pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases. Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of a higher MLDA in preventing injuries and deaths among youth. Despite laws prohibiting the sale or provision of alcohol to people under age 21, minors can easily obtain alcohol from many sources. Increased MLDA enforcement levels and deterrents for adults who might sell or provide alcohol to minors can help prevent additional injuries and deaths among youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-218
Number of pages6
JournalAlcohol Research and Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996


  • AOD availability
  • AOD sales
  • AODR (alcohol and other drug related) injury prevention
  • Adolescent
  • Aodr mortality
  • Drinking and driving
  • Evaluation
  • History of AOD public policy
  • Law enforcement
  • Minimum drinking age laws
  • Public policy on AOD
  • Traffic accident


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