The relationship of alcohol safety laws to drinking drivers in fatal crashes

Accid Anal Prev. 2000 Jul;32(4):483-92. doi: 10.1016/s0001-4575(99)00063-9.


This paper presents an analysis of the relationships between the passage of key alcohol safety laws and the number of drinking drivers in fatal crashes. The study evaluated three major alcohol safety laws--administrative license revocation laws, 0.10 illegal per se, and 0.08 illegal per se laws--on the proportion of drinking drivers in fatal crashes. Drivers aged 21 and older in fatal crashes at two BAC levels--0.01-0.09 and 0.10 or greater--were considered separately. Drivers under age 21 were not included because they are affected by the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) law. This study used data on drinking drivers in fatal crashes from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) covering 16 years (1982-1997) for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Also included in the study were such variables as per capita alcohol consumption and annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which could affect the number of alcohol-related crashes. The results indicate that each of the three laws had a significant relationship to the downward trend in alcohol-related fatal crashes in the United States over that period. This paper points out that this long-term trend is not the product of a single law. Instead, it is the result of the growing impact of several laws over time plus the affect of some factors not included in the model tested (such as the increasing use of sobriety checkpoints and the media's attention to the drinking-and-driving problem).

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality*
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / mortality*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / prevention & control
  • Automobile Driving / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Cause of Death
  • District of Columbia
  • Ethanol / pharmacokinetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Safety / legislation & jurisprudence*


  • Ethanol