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A comprehensive examination of U.S. laws enacted to reduce alcohol-related crashes among underage drivers

A US study examined and evaluated the simultaneous contribution of 20 underage drinking laws and 3 general driving safety laws, while accounting for demographic, economic, and environmental variables. Annual fatal crash data (1982 to 2010), policies, and demographic, economic, and environmental information were collected and applied to each of the 51 jurisdictions (50 states and the District of Columbia). A structural equation model was fit to estimate the relative contribution of the variables of interest to alcohol-related crashes.

Economic factors (e.g., unemployment rate, cost of alcohol) and alcohol outlet density were found highly relevant to the amount of alcohol teens consume and therefore to teens’ impaired driving. Policies such as those regulating the age of bartenders, sellers, or servers; social host civil liability laws; dram shop laws; internal possession of alcohol laws; and fake identification laws do not appear to have the same impact on teens’ alcohol-related crash ratios as other types of policies such as those regulating alcohol consumption or alcohol outlet density. The authors conclude that their research illustrates the need for comprehensive models of teens’ impaired driving. After simultaneously accounting for as many factors as possible, they found that for most communities, further reductions in alcoholrelated crashes among teens might be more rapidly achieved from efforts focused on reducing teens’ drinking rather than on reducing teens’ driving. They recommend that future efforts should be made to develop models that represent specific communities. Based on this and community specific models, simulation programmes can be developed to help communities understand and visualise the impact of various policy alternatives, they state.

Source: A comprehensive examination of US laws enacted to reduce alcohol-related crashes among underage drivers. Romano E; Scherer M; Fell J; Taylor E, Journal of Safety Research, Vol 55, 2015, pp213-221.

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