- Posted by Austin Swim
- On August 8, 2015
- 0 Comments
One leading topic of discussion when it comes to drunk driving and state policies is whether or not stricter policies makes for fewer instances of drunk driving. A new study, however, posits that states with more restrictive alcohol policies and regulations actually have lower rates of self-reported drunk driving. The study, which was published in the International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, was carried out by researchers at the Boston University schools of public health and medicine and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
To conduct the study, the research team assigned each state an “alcohol policy score,” represented by a percentage. For each state, the team examined 29 different types of alcohol policies, ranging from alcohol taxation to the use of sobriety checkpoints. A higher percentage for a state meant stricter alcohol policies in that state. Interestly enough, the study found that with each 1 percentage point increase in the alcohol policy score, there was an associated 1 percent decrease in the likelihood of impaired driving. Upon reaching this finding, the researchers hypothesized that “a 10 percent increase in strength among state alcohol policy environments in all states would result in about 404,903 fewer impaired drivers monthly.”
The study led to other surprising findings, as well. For instance, the researchers noticed that laws intended to prevent binge drinking were equally as protective against drunk driving as were laws specifically targeting impaired driving. This means that high alcohol taxes, safe serving laws, and retail sales restrictions were just as effective as sobriety checkpoints at preventing drunk driving. This coincides with previous research on state alcohol policies, which revealed that states with stronger alcohol policy scores had lower rates of binge drinking.
Ziming Xuan, ScD, Boston University professor and lead author of the study, discussed what this means in terms of legislation addressing drunk driving. “Basically, our study supports two parallel mechanisms involved in addressing drunk driving: Drinking policies reduce the likelihood of getting drunk, and driving policies prevent drunk folks from getting behind the wheel.” He added, “It is clear that in order for states to comprehensively address drunk driving as a public health issue, more effective policies need to be put into place to address excessive alcohol consumption.”
Currently, about one-third of motor vehicle crashes in the US are alcohol related, and this has been the case for the past two decades. This new study underlines the importance of creating comprehensive alcohol policies that address not only intoxicated driving but also drinking consumption more generally.