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Tough Legislation on Underage Drinking Seems to Save Lives
Date:4/7/2009

Laws on purchase and possession of alcohol, zero tolerance prevent more than 700 deaths a year, study says

TUESDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Not all laws are created equal when it comes to reducing the number of drinking-related auto accidents, say researchers who analyzed the impact of underage drinking laws and alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

Most effective, they found, are laws targeting the purchase and possession of alcohol by youth, including use-and-lose laws that allow the suspension of a driver's license for any underage alcohol violation and zero-tolerance laws that make it illegal for young people to drive with any amount of alcohol in their system.

"Raising the drinking age to 21 has resulted in significant reductions in underage drinking and driving fatal crashes," said the study's lead author, James C. Fell, director of traffic safety and enforcement programs for the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, in Calverton, Md., which did the study. "While there have been studies about drinking age, what happens when you lower it or raise it, there were other components of underage drinking laws we needed to look at."

Laws on purchase and possession of alcohol and zero tolerance save an estimated 732 lives a year, according to the study. And the researchers theorized that an additional 165 could be saved if all states were to adopt use-and-lose laws.

The researchers used information from four national databases and analyzed six laws that states had enacted to try to reduce the incidence of underage drinking and driving and four laws aimed at drivers of all ages.

Use-and-lose laws resulted in 5 percent fewer accidents attributed to drinking and driving, the study found.

"Thirty-six states plus D.C. have such a law," Fell said. "I would ask the 14 states that don't to strongly consider adapting that legislation because, if they do and publicize it, they'll see a
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