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Comprehensive Examination of US Laws Enacted To Reduce Alcohol-related Crashes Among Underage Drivers

NCJ Number
Journal of Safety Research Volume: 55 Dated: December 2015 Pages: 213-221
E. Romano; M. Scherer; J. Fell; E. Taylor
Date Published
December 2016
9 pages
The reported research 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 related to under-age drinking and driving.
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. As anticipated, economic factors (e.g., unemployment rate, cost of alcohol) and alcohol outlet density were found to be highly relevant to the amount of alcohol teens consumed 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 did not apparently 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. These findings indicate the need for comprehensive models of teens' impaired driving. After simultaneously accounting for as many factors as possible, this study found that in general (for most communities) further reductions in alcohol-related crashes among teens might be more rapidly achieved through efforts that focus on reducing teens' drinking rather than on reducing teens' driving. Future efforts should develop models that represent specific communities. Based on this and community-specific models, simulation programs can be developed to help communities understand and visualize the impact of various policy alternatives. (Publisher abstract modified)