While college presidents have recently been the most vocal on the subject of underage drinking, most American youth start using alcohol well before moving on to college. In Lake Forest/Lake Bluff, teens are no exception. Based on a February 2008 survey, 77% of LFHS seniors have used alcohol in the past year, 60% reported alcohol use in the past 30 days, and 42% report binge drinking in the past 2 weeks. Average age of first drink was 15 years of age, but over half of those who drink in high school indicated they started drinking before starting high school. These levels are above the national, regional, and county averages, and it appears that other communities around the country similar in demographics to Lake Forest/Lake Bluff have higher levels, too.
However, such research is also not without considerable controversy. Several studies, including a 2011 review, were found to cast doubt on the idea that raising the drinking age to 21 actually saved lives in the long run.     For example, Miron and Tetelbaum (2009) found that when the federally coerced and non-coerced states were separated out, any lifesaving effect is no longer statistically or practically significant in the coerced states, and even in the voluntary-adopting states the effect does not seem to last beyond the first year or two. They also find that the 21 drinking age appears to have only a minor impact on teen drinking.  There is also some evidence that traffic deaths were merely shifted from the 18-20 age group to the 21-24 age group rather than averted.    Additionally, Canada, Australia, the UK, and several other nations saw similar or faster declines in traffic fatalities than the USA did since the early 1980s despite not raising their drinking ages to 21.  Thus, the magnitude of any public health and safety benefits of the 21 drinking age, at least relative to a legal drinking age of 18, remains unclear.
Some supporters of holding the drinking age steady acknowledge that 21, when it comes right down to it, is an arbitrary age. Twenty-five might be better, if unrealistic. But they argue that enforcement is a problem at any age, and lowering the legal limit to 18 would only mean pushing the drinking problem further down to 16- and 17-year-olds. Alexander Wagenaar, a health policy professor at the University of Florida, goes further. He believes that lowering the drinking age would be disastrous. After states set the age at 21, he says, teen highway deaths immediately dropped by 15 to 20 percent. "The people who are advocating going down to 18," says Wagenaar, "should acknowledge that they're willing to risk an extra thousand deaths per year and double that number of injuries."