Background: Much attention has recently been directed toward developing preventive interventions to reduce drinking and driving through efforts to limit the numbers and locations of alcohol outlets at the community level. Although evaluations of these efforts have suggested linkages between alcohol outlets and problem outcomes, they have not addressed the linkage between outlets and drinking and driving among youth. The analysis reported here investigates the relationship between alcohol outlet densities and underage drinking and driving as self-reported on two telephone surveys conducted in California.
Methods: These analyses were based on data obtained from two telephone surveys conducted by the Prevention Research Center and archival data collected by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the US Census Bureau. The sample for the first survey consisted of 15- to 20-year-old adolescents and young adults contacted by telephone, using a random digit dialing of exchanges in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. A second set of survey data was similarly collected by a random sample of households throughout California, and the Bay Area subset was also used for this analysis.
Results: At the individual level, older respondents were more likely to report drinking and driving and riding with drinking drivers, whereas females and Asians were less so. At the aggregate or city-level, alcohol outlet density, as measured by the number of on- and off-premises establishments licensed to sell alcohol, was associated with both drinking and driving and riding with drinking drivers. These effects were moderated by a number of individual level effects, with younger respondents and females more likely to be affected by outlet densities.
Conclusions: The findings here provide support for the implementation of policies targeting alcohol outlet density reductions. Areas with large numbers of such outlets provide ample opportunities to youth for alcohol purchases.