Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States, and about 1 in 5 teen drivers involved in a fatal crash have alcohol in their system. While there are a variety of strategies used to curb underage drinking, a recent study has found that changes in state policy and law are effective at reducing alcohol-related deaths in teenagers.
Earlier this month, researchers at Boston Children's Hospital presented their study titled “Alcohol Policies and Motor Vehicle Injury Fatalities among Underage Youth in the United States.” The study used the Alcohol Policy Scale (APS) to evaluate the strength of each state's alcohol policy from 1999-2011. The researchers matched the APS number against the numbers of drivers who died in alcohol-related crashes to determine how policies affected the drinking patterns of 16-20 year olds.
The APS was developed just two years ago by researchers at the Recovery Research Institute. It used experts from a wide range of disciplines including law, sociology, economics, epidemiology, and physiology to rate the effectiveness of state alcohol polices intended to reduce (1) youth alcohol consumption, (2) youth impaired driving, (3) general population alcohol consumption, and (4) general population impaired driving.
Specifically, the APS rated policies that affected:
- Days and hours of sales restrictions
- Graduated drivers licenses
- False ID laws
- Fetal alcohol syndrome warning signs
- House party laws
- Sobriety checkpoints
- Alcohol taxes
- Zero-tolerance laws
These and other factors were evaluated by the experts and were given a numerical rating, which was put through a complex equation to create an overall number rating for the state's alcohol laws. Higher numbers were associated with more restrictive laws. This way, the study focused broadly on how laws effect a certain practice instead of focusing on the effect of one policy.
The new study took those state policy ratings from 1999-2011 and applied them to youth drinking to test the effectiveness of tough alcohol laws on reducing teen alcohol-related deaths. The researchers found a significant correlation between tougher laws and lower underage alcohol-related car crashes, proving that tough laws are effective at curbing underage drinking and driving.
Though the results might seem obvious, they can have a real impact on the way society works to reduce underage drinking. There are many other strategies parents, educators, and lawmakers use to reduce underage drinking, including structured education in school about the dangers of alcohol, discipline and rule-making within a family, and extracurricular activities that incorporate education about alcohol. But the study proves that tough laws are one effective way to curb underage drinking and driving.
If the study had found that laws had little correlation with lower teen drinking and driving levels, it would have pointed policy makers to study other, more effective ways to reduce teen drinking and driving.
The techniques used in this study can be further used to test how alcohol laws affect the drinking patters of other age groups in individual states and will bring lawmakers one step further in reducing alcohol-related deaths.
Underage DUIs can have disastrous effects on a teenager's life. If a loved one has been charged with an underage DUI, you need to speak with an experienced DUI attorney. Call the Law Offices of Aaron J. Wolff today at (206) 504-2500 to schedule a free consultation.
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