Untargeted Laws, Pricier Alcohol Credited With Lower Teen DUI Deaths in Study Preview

Laws Limiting Alcohol Sales May Lower Alcohol Misuse, Study Shows

Drinking and driving are responsible for about a quarter of all motor vehicle crashes involving teens and car crashes—and are the leading cause of death for teenagers within the U.S. A new study is being presented that examines multiple forms of government policy in an attempt to find out what kinds of actions work best when trying to reduce teen DUI deaths.

The study is going to be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Baltimore later today so the exact findings are not currently available. However, lead author Scott Hadland has offered a preview of sorts that can still offer some thoughts on the subject.

Drinking and Driving Study: Summary

  • Earlier studies in this area focused on single policy changes. This study differs in that it looks at alcohol policy overall due to how such rules rarely act in isolation
  • The study focused on laws and regulations across all 50 states during the 1999-2012 period
  • With regards to impacts on youth, youth ages 16-20 were assessed since this group was old enough to drive but not enough to drink
  • Laws were analyzed with the help of policy experts from the fields of law, sociology, psychology, and economics. Exactly how the analysis was conducted was not elaborated on
  • They found that stronger alcohol restrictions could be correlated to lower teen deaths from drinking and driving incidents
  • Alcohol laws that didn’t specifically target teens were found to be more effective, such as rules about when alcohol could be sold, taxes on alcohol, and laws on how many alcohol stores could be in a certain area
  • More targeted rules such as graduated drivers’ licenses and laws that held parents responsible for youth drinking at the home were also found to contribute

What All of This Means

The potential utility and reliability of the study is not going to be clear until it gets presented. Since the study has the intent of providing potential policy guidance to state and local governments, the average citizen is not likely to find much personably actionable information regardless. For policymakers looking for ways to adjust or improve their rules regarding alcohol and/or drinking and driving, there may be something of interest.

Hadland does, however, acknowledge certain difficulties in trying such an ambitious form of policy analysis. For instance, how far people drive on average within a state will have a natural impact on car crash rates and possibly skew results in certain comparisons. There is also the possibility that new legislation was enacted or existing rules were changed during the study period. Hadland notes that they attempted to correct for these and other factors, but how effective such adjustments were remains to be seen until the study gets presented.


Du, K., “Tighter Alcohol Curbs For All Help Reduce Teen Motor Vehicle Deaths,” NPR web site, April 30, 2016; http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/04/30/476156974/tighter-alcohol-curbs-for-all-help-reduce-teen-motor-vehicle-deaths, last accessed May 2, 2016.