Education

Drinking Age Linked To Drop In Accidents Involving Youths

November 09, 1981 3 min read
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Marked declines in traffic-accident rates in two states are the direct results of raising the legal drinking age, according to University of Michigan researcher.

Alexander C. Wagenaar, of the university’s Highway Safety Research Institute, last week told members of the American Public Health Association that accident rates for 18- to 20-year-olds in Michigan and Maine fell by more than 17 percent after both states prohibited the sale of alcohol to teen-agers.

In Michigan, which raised the drinking age from 18 to 21 in 1978, “non-injury” accidents involving 18- to 20-year-olds declined by 17 percent in the first year; single-car accidents involving men from the age group studied dropped by 22 percent; and accidents resulting in death or injury declined by 28 percent.

In Maine, which raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 20 in 1979, alcohol-related accidents that did not result in injuries dropped by 17 percent, the study found.

Many states lowered the minimum drinking age in the early 1970’s. But since 1976, 15 states including Michigan and Maine have raised it again.

Federal spending for education is not biased toward the Sunbelt states at the expense of Northern states, concludes a recent study by the Southeastern Regional Council for Educational Improvement.

Ronald Bird, an economist at the University of Alabama who analyzed U.S. census data and several economic indicators in the study, concludes that economic growth in the Sunbelt “has not had a uniform impact on all its states.”

Although the economic growth in the South and West has prompted “proponents of formula revisions” to suggest that the federal government should lower the amount of education3funds it dispenses southward, Mr. Bird says this would leave many poor Southern students without needed services.

He contends that although there has been recent economic growth in Texas and California, states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama “have experienced some improvement, but remain far behind the nation in terms of personal income and other measures of economic performance.”

Mr. Bird says that if, as some economists have suggested, the factor of per-capita income were removed from formulas for distributing federal educa-tion dollars, both Sunbelt and Frostbelt states would lose funds.

As examples of this, he recalculates formulas for dispensing state grants to fund vocational-training programs, rehabilitation services, and public libraries--and concludes that poor states in both regions could suffer, while wealthier states could gain.

The study for the regional council--which serves the chief state school officers in 10 Southeastern states--asserts that federal education funds should be used “as a policy tool to respond to the needs of the lower-income states in every region.”

As long as a gap in per-capita income exists among states in both regions, Mr. Bird concludes, “there is no basis for removing per-capita income from the formulas.”

Teachers of social studies appear to be a diverse group of Americans who read widely, watch television in moderation, and do not get enough exercise. Most describe themselves as moderately or very religious; 80 percent have traveled outside the United States; nearly all are white; and most are male.

These are some of the conclusions reached in a survey of teachers of social studies from six states. The profile, published in the October 1981 issue of Social Education, does not apply to all teachers of social studies, the researchers caution. But the findings nevertheless offer interesting insights into the profession and raise questions for future debate, they note.

Most--80 percent--of those polled are parents, and the group also reported more involvement in political activity than the general public.

Many social-studies teachers are avid readers, favoring political commentary and historical novels as well as professional journals and news magazines. Those who are single read more science fiction and murder mysteries than do those who are married. Those under 30 are most likely to consider themselves “very religious.”

The majority said they have a strong commitment to teaching “traditional American values” and to balanced discussion of controversial issues in the classroom. They enjoy teaching and take pride in it, but one-third would leave the profession--most because the salaries are too low.

The survey raises questions for those in the profession, notes Anna S. Ochoa in a “postscript” to the profile.

For example, she asks, what effect do these teachers’ strong religious convictions have on classroom practice? Many teachers have traveled abroad; should travel opportunities be made available to encourage this? And in a group that has a preponderance of white males, what should be done to encourage diversity?

A version of this article appeared in the November 09, 1981 edition of Education Week as Drinking Age Linked To Drop In Accidents Involving Youths

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