Sunday, June 10, 2007

Choose Responsibility

Five years ago, near Charlottesville, a woman threw a birthday party for her son. To insure that none of the guests drove home drunk, she insisted that (1) the guests not drive to the party and (2) that they spend the night. No one at the party drank above the legal limit for driving and no one left the house as agreed...until the police showed up. For their good faith efforts, Elisa Kelly and her now ex-husband were sentenced to over 2 yrs in jail a piece on 9 counts of providing alcohol to a minor.

In fairness, Kelly definitely screwed up for "[misleading] parents who called to ask about alcohol [and for trying] to get the kids to cover it up after police got there." There are certainly different ways of looking at this case: Radley Balko of Reason (here) and Charlottesville's Daily Progress (here). Along these lines, Balko has also written about a group called Choose Responsibility headed by John McCardell, a former college president. As first reported in this article of the Chronicle of Higher Education, McCardell argues for a plan which would lower the drinking age to 18 with a "catch." People between the ages of 18 and 20 would be given a provisional license to drink alcohol, but it would be revoked if they screwed up. People under the age of 18 would lose access to the provisional license if they screwed up before turning 18. The idea is that this gives kids under 18 an incentive not to drink until they turned 18. It also gives people between 18 and 20 an incentive to drink responsibly. Some Q&A here.


dave hiller said...

I think everyone could guess my stance on this issue. I don't understand any justification for having the legal drinking age be 21, in the middle of college. Nor do I see how putting these people in jail, and the side effects, is at all productive.

There is nothing inherently, unavoidably dangerous about drinking. So let people drink, and hold them responsible for their actions. There was a good line in one of those links - when you infantilize people, they behave like infants.

Alan Rosenwinkel said...

Thought #1: Were it not for drunk-driving, giving alcohol underage drinking would be a non-issue. Drunk driving is a major problem and everyone does it, not just teens. The statistics on alcohol related fatalities are really interesting. Check out this table, broken down by age group and gender .

Thought #2: It seems the important details in this case are (1) Like Jaideep said, the parents were careful to keep the kids from drinking and driving (2) The parents lied to other parents about the party (3) It was the judge who imposed the 8 year sentence, reduced to 2 on appeal even though the prosecutor recommended 90 days.

Conclusions: Don't drink and drive!!!

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