Tighter alcohol restrictions and stronger alcohol policies may be the key to unlocking lower drunk driving deaths among Boston’s youth. That’s according to a recent study by researchers at Boston Medical Center.
The analysis was published recently online by the journal Pediatrics, and underscores the importance of alcohol control policies that are both strong and comprehensive in lowering the number of DUI-related deaths among young people.
As it stands, car accidents are one of the top causes of death among people under the age of 21 in the U.S. It’s particularly bad in Massachusetts, where 40 percent of all fatal car accidents involve a drunk driver and we are in the top 25 percent of states with the highest rates of youths who die in alcohol-related crashes.
Researchers in this case analyzed alcohol policy scale in 29 locations across the country. These would be policies that were specifically intended to lower alcohol consumption and prevent intoxicated driving. Researchers then cross-referenced those with the actual number of people 21-and-under who died as a result of alcohol-related crashes (about 85,000 total over a period of more than a dozen years).
What they discovered was this: States that had heavy legal restrictions on alcohol had much lower rates of drunk driving deaths. The restrictions we’re talking about would include statutes that:
- Imposed higher penalties on first-time drunk drivers.
- Imposed higher taxes on alcohol products.
- Had zero-tolerance policies for youthful drivers who were drunk.
As the lead author, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center noted, 50 percent of all young people killed in car accidents die because somebody was drunk. But in states where alcohol policies were much more stringent, there was a far lower likelihood that a young person would die an alcohol-related death.
This finding mirrored earlier research that analyzed the connection between specific alcohol laws in a given region and drunk driving fatalities, but is generally broader in scale than most previous studies. There is one noteworthy exception, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in 2013. In that study, researchers concluded that local, state and national policies that limit the hours during which alcoholic beverages may be available for sale can be an effective means of lowering excessive alcohol consumption – and related harms. This was concluded after reviewing 10 other previous studies on the issue, and finding that increasing hours of sale by 2 hours or more results in increased alcohol consumption in a given location.
It should be noted that about half of underage young people killed in drunk driving accidents in the U.S. aren’t the ones behind the wheel – they are the passengers in vehicles driven by an adult over the age of 21. What that means is that the policies that are effective aren’t even necessarily those that target underage drinking, but rather all excessive drinking.
The majority of deadly alcohol-related crashes occurred on the weekend and/ or in the evening/ at night.
In Massachusetts, state liquor laws allow wine, beer and liquor to be sold at grocery stores, as well as standalone liquor stores and certain restaurants and bars. Sale hours for these beverages are Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. There is no restriction on sales of alcohol on Sundays. Bars are required to close at 2 a.m.
204 CMR 4.00 prohibits certain practices by alcohol licensees, employees or agents, including:
- Offering or delivering any free drinks to any person or group of persons.
- Delivering more than two drinks to one person at a time.
- Selling, offering to sell or delivering drinks at a price less than regularly charged during the same calendar week, except at private functions not open to the public.
- Selling, offering to sell or delivering unlimited number of drinks during a set period of time for a fixed price, except at private functions.
- Increasing the volume of alcohol in a drunk without increasing proportionately the price regularly charged for such a drink.
- Encouraging or allowing any game or contest that involves drinking or awarding drinks as prizes.
If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
Study Shows Strong Alcohol Policies Protect Against Drunk Driving Deaths among Young People, Feb. 14, 2017, Press Release, Boston Medical Center
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New App Tells Users if They Are Drunk Based Upon Walking, Feb. 14, 2017, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Blog