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The fatal toll of driving to drink: The effect of minimum legal drinking age evasion on traffic fatalities

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  • Lovenheim, Michael F.
  • Slemrod, Joel

Abstract

There is a sizeable literature on the effect of minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) restrictions on teenage drunk driving. This paper adds to the literature by examining the effect of MLDA evasion across states with different alcohol restrictions. Using state-of-the-art GIS software and micro-data on fatal vehicle accidents from 1977 to 2002, we find that in counties within 25 miles of a lower-MLDA jurisdiction, a legal restriction on drinking does not reduce youth involvement in fatal accidents and, for 18 and 19-year-old drivers, fatal accident involvement actually increases. Farther from such a border, we find results consistent with the previous literature that MLDA restrictions are effective in reducing accident fatalities. The estimates imply that, of the total reduction in teenager-involved fatalities due to the equalization of state MLDAs at 21 in the 1970s and 1980s, for 18-year olds between a quarter and a third and for 19-year olds over 15 percent was due to equalization. Furthermore, the effect of changes in the MLDA is quite heterogeneous with respect to the fraction of a state's population that need not travel far to cross a border to evade its MLDA. Our results imply the effect of lowering the MLDA in select states, such as has been proposed in Vermont, could lead to sizeable increases in teenage involvement in fatal accidents due to evasion of local alcohol restrictions.

Suggested Citation

  • Lovenheim, Michael F. & Slemrod, Joel, 2010. "The fatal toll of driving to drink: The effect of minimum legal drinking age evasion on traffic fatalities," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 62-77, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:29:y:2010:i:1:p:62-77
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Christopher Carpenter & Carlos Dobkin, 2010. "Alcohol Regulation and Crime," NBER Chapters,in: Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs, pages 291-329 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Yörük, BarIs K. & Yörük, Ceren Ertan, 2011. "The impact of minimum legal drinking age laws on alcohol consumption, smoking, and marijuana use: Evidence from a regression discontinuity design using exact date of birth," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 740-752, July.
    3. Harding, Matthew & Lovenheim, Michael, 2017. "The effect of prices on nutrition: Comparing the impact of product- and nutrient-specific taxes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 53-71.
    4. Johanna Catherine Maclean & Keshar M. Ghimire & Lauren Hersch Nicholas, 2017. "The Effect of State Medical Marijuana Laws on Social Security Disability Insurance and Workers' Compensation Claiming," NBER Working Papers 23862, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Lauren E. Jones & Nicolas R. Ziebarth, 2017. "U.S. Child Safety Seat Laws: Are they Effective, and Who Complies?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 36(3), pages 584-607, June.
    6. Christopher Carpenter & Carlos Dobkin, 2011. "The Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Public Health," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 133-156, Spring.
    7. Jason M. Lindo & Peter Siminski & Oleg Yerokhin, 2016. "Breaking The Link Between Legal Access To Alcohol And Motor Vehicle Accidents: Evidence From New South Wales," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(7), pages 908-928, July.
    8. David S. Jacks & Krishna Pendakur & Hitoshi Shigeoka, 2017. "Infant Mortality and the Repeal of Federal Prohibition," Working Papers 2017-036, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    9. Marcus, Jan & Siedler, Thomas, 2015. "Reducing binge drinking? The effect of a ban on late-night off-premise alcohol sales on alcohol-related hospital stays in Germany," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 55-77.
    10. Ceren Ertan Yörük & Barış Yörük, 2015. "Alcohol consumption and risky sexual behavior among young adults: evidence from minimum legal drinking age laws," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(1), pages 133-157, January.
    11. Christopher S. Carpenter & Carlos Dobkin & Casey Warman, 2016. "The Mechanisms of Alcohol Control," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 51(2), pages 328-356.
    12. Ertan Yörük, Ceren & Yörük, Barış K., 2012. "The impact of drinking on psychological well-being: Evidence from minimum drinking age laws in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(10), pages 1844-1854.
    13. DeCicca, Philip & Kenkel, Donald & Liu, Feng, 2013. "Excise tax avoidance: The case of state cigarette taxes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 1130-1141.
    14. B. Douglas Bernheim & Jonathan Meer & Neva K. Novarro, 2012. "Do Consumers Exploit Precommitment Opportunities? Evidence from Natural Experiments Involving Liquor Consumption," NBER Working Papers 17762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Benjamin Hansen & Keaton Miller & Caroline Weber, 2017. "The Grass is Greener on the Other Side: How Extensive is the Interstate Trafficking of Recreational Marijuana?," NBER Working Papers 23762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Van Ommeren, Jos & Rietveld, Piet & Zagha Hop, Jack & Sabir, Muhammad, 2013. "Killing kilos in car accidents: Are external costs of car weight internalised?," Economics of Transportation, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 86-93.
    17. Jessica Lynn Peck, 2017. "New York City Drunk Driving After Uber," Working Papers 13, City University of New York Graduate Center, Ph.D. Program in Economics.
    18. repec:eee:pubeco:v:150:y:2017:i:c:p:53-74 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Almunia, Miguel & Gaete, Gonzalo, 2017. "Points To Save Lives: The Effects of Traffic Enforcement Policies on Road Fatalities," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 348, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    20. Johanna Catherine Maclean & Lauren Hersch Nicholas & Keshar M. Ghimire, 2017. "The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Laws on Social Security Disability Insurance and Workers' Compensation Benefit Claiming," Working Papers id:12111, eSocialSciences.
    21. David R. Agrawal, 2015. "The Tax Gradient: Spatial Aspects of Fiscal Competition," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 1-29, May.
    22. Roesel, Felix, 2017. "The causal effect of wrong-hand drive vehicles on road safety," Economics of Transportation, Elsevier, vol. 11, pages 15-22.

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