Stronger alcohol policies protect young people from dying in crashes caused by drunk driving, according to a new study co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.
The study, published online in the journal Pediatrics and led by Boston Medical Center, supports the importance of comprehensive alcohol-control policies to reduce the number of young people who die in alcohol-related crashes.
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among young people in the U.S. In Massachusetts, 40 percent of deadly car crashes involve a drunk driver, and the state falls within the top 25 percent in rates of young people killed in drunk-driving crashes.
The study used an alcohol policy scale that assessed 29 alcohol policies across the US, which were designed to reduce alcohol consumption or prevent impaired driving, and cross-referenced them with the number of people ages 20 and younger who died in crashes involving alcohol over the course of 13 years (approximately 85,000). States were ranked based on how restrictive their alcohol laws were, including higher alcohol taxes and zero-tolerance policies for young people drinking and driving.
“We’ve seen research that shows the relationship between specific alcohol laws and drunk driving deaths, but no one has looked at the broader picture of the policy environment in different states,” said senior author Dr. Timothy Naimi, an associate professor of public health and medicine at BUSPH and a general internal medicine physician at BMC.
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