The current law, passed in all 50 states in the 1980s, was intended to diminish the number of traffic deaths caused by young drunk drivers. It has succeeded in that -- but tougher seatbelt and . rules have contributed to the decrease, too. Raising the drinking age hasn't reduced drinking -- it’s merely driven it underground, to the riskiest of settings: unsupervised high school blowouts and fraternity parties that make "Animal House" look quaint. This age segregation leads the drinking away from adults, who could model moderation.
The roots of this extreme drinking lie in our own history. Prohibition, which banned most alcohol in the United States from 1920 to 1933, normalized the frenzied sort of drinking that occurs today at college parties. In speakeasies and blind pigs, the goal was to drink as much and as soon as possible, because you never knew when the feds would show up. Today's law, likewise, encourages young people to dodge the system. Like Prohibition -- and abstinence-only sex education -- it’s been a dismal failure.