Strong Alcohol Policies Linked to Fewer Young Adults Dying In Car Crashes

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Scott E. Hadland, MD, MPH, MS Assistant Professor of Pediatrics | Boston University School of Medicine Urban Health & Advocacy Track Director | Boston Combined Residency Program Boston, MA 02118

Dr. Scott Hadland

Scott E. Hadland, MD, MPH, MS
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Boston University School of Medicine
Urban Health & Advocacy Track Director | Boston Combined Residency Program
Boston, MA 02118

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Studies to date have shown that states’ alcohol laws can help prevent young people from dying in car crashes. However, studies to date have usually only looked at a single policy at once. We wanted to build on these previous studies by looking at the overall effect of multiple alcohol laws acting at once. We also wanted to look at laws not necessarily only targeting drinking and driving among young people, but also policies aimed primarily at adults over 21.

We studied deaths of young people under 21 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes across the United States between 2000 and 2013. We found that one-quarter of all young people died in a crash involving a driver who alcohol level was over the legal limit. One-half died in a crash in which the driver had any level of alcohol in their bloodstream above zero.

We also found that most young people died on evenings and weekends, which is when people are most likely to have been drinking. Importantly, almost half of all young people died in a crash in which they were the passenger, not the driver. In 80% of cases in which they were the passenger, it was actually an adult >21, not a young person, who was driving the vehicle.

We then looked at states’ alcohol laws, and found that the stronger the set of alcohol policies in a state, the lower the likelihood of young people dying in a crash that was alcohol-related. Policies included laws relating to alcohol taxes, alcohol availability and hours of sales, and graduated driver’s licensing for young people, among many others.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: When it comes to preventing young people from dying in crashes involving alcohol, alcohol control policies are clearly critical. Importantly, these are not necessarily only policies that prevent young people from drinking and driving. In fact, since so many young people died in car crashes in which they were the passenger driven by an adult >21 years, policies that prevent adults from drinking heavily, are also very important. Simply targeting drinking and driving among young people is likely to be inadequate.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We recommend doing a deeper dive to understand which policies acting together have the strongest effect. Most studies to date have looked at a single policy at a time; ours looked at all possible policies acting at once. Somewhere in between lies an important truth: which laws in combination with one another are the most effective at reducing alcohol-related deaths. Nonetheless, our study suggests that in general, more policies acting at once seem to be the most protective.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: No disclosures. But, as with any study, there are some limitations to consider. For example, although we carefully considered how likely certain alcohol laws were to be enforced, we cannot be absolutely certain every policy was fully enforced. For example, having sobriety checkpoints may be important, but the number of them actually set up and the locations and times that they take place is critical for ensuring that they work.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation:

Pediatrics
February 2017
Alcohol Policies and Alcohol-Related Motor Vehicle Crash Fatalities Among Young People in the US
Scott E Hadland, Ziming Xuan, Vishnudas Sarda, Jason Blanchette, Monica H Swahn,Timothy C Heeren, Robert B Voas, Timothy S Naim

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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