The Effects of Raising and Lowering the Minimum Legal Drinking Age in Virginia, December 1984: Update

Report No: 85-R20

Published in 1984

About the report:

This report updated previous reports on the impact of raising and lowering the legal drinking age. The legal drinking age for beer in Virginia was lowered from 21 to 18 years in 1974. The percentage of all crashes that were alcohol-related increased significantly after 1975 for persons under 16, 16 to 19 years, and 20 to 24 years. Such increases were not noted for other adults. The data indicated that lowering the drinking age for beer from 21 years to 18 years had a selective and deleterious effect on persons under 21. In July of 1981, the age at which a person could buy beer in stores for off-premises consumption was raised to 19 years (the age for on-premises sales remained at 18). The percentage of all crashes which were alcohol-related began to decrease in 1982, the first full year in which the age change was enforced. Alcohol-related crashes in 1982 and 1983 were significantly lower than expected given trends which existed after the drinking age was raised for both adults and persons 16 to 19. These data indicated that while raising the drinking age to 19 years for the off-premises sale of beer may have resulted in reduced alcohol-related crashes for the affected age groups, something else not specifically related to age reduced alcohol-related crashes for all ages. In July of 1983, the age at which a person could buy beer on-premises in restaurants and taverns was also raised to 19 years. Not enough time had passed to provide data concerning the impact of this change.

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.


Other Authors

Cheryl W. Lynn

Last updated: January 16, 2024

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