Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

BU: Rates of Drunk Driving Tied to State Alcohol Policies

States with more restrictive alcohol policies and regulations have lower rates of self-reported drunk driving, according to a new study led by researchers at Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH).

The research team assigned each state an “alcohol policy score,” based on an aggregate of 29 alcohol policies such as alcohol taxation and the use of sobriety checkpoints. Each 1 percentage point increase in the score was found to be associated with a 1 percent decrease in the likelihood of impaired driving, according to the study, published in the International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research.

“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 researchers reported.

A surprising finding of the study was that laws intended to prevent binge drinking — such as high alcohol taxes, safe serving laws, and retail sales restrictions — were equally as protective against drunk driving as laws specifically targeting impaired driving, such as sobriety checkpoints. Previous research has shown that states with stronger alcohol policy scores had lower rates of binge drinking.

“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,” said Dr. Ziming Xuan, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of community health sciences at BUSPH.

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