The Effects of Lowering the Legal Drinking Age in Virginia: Final Report

Report No: 81-R31

Published in 1981

About the report:

On July 1, 1974, an amendment went into effect which lowered Virginia's legal drinking age for beer to 18 years; the minimum drinking age for wine and hard liquor was kept at 21. This move to extend adult drinking privileges to persons of military age had already been made in one form or another in about 30 other states. The most common practice among these states was to allow the purchase of all alcoholic beverages at one particular age. Virginia is the only state which discriminates between beer and wine/hard liquor in its treatment of minimum ages. While it is recognized that the possible effects of lowering the legal drinking age may be far reaching, the sole purpose of the research reported here was to examine the effect of reducing the legal drinking age on the highway safety environment in Virginia. This was accomplished through a review of the literature and an examination of Virginia crash data. It was found that lowering the legal drinking age resulted in increased alcohol-related accidents for young persons, and it was concluded that a more protective stand should be taken toward persons 18 to 20 years old with regard to the legal drinking age in Virginia.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • Cheryl W. Lynn

Last updated: January 22, 2024

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