New Study: Higher Alcohol Sales Tax Helps Reduce DUI Crashes
A new study examines whether a sales tax increase in Maryland, USA meant to generate money for public schools and other programs also affected a reduction in car crashes. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and shows that alcohol sales taxes help saving lives.
Road traffic accidents place heavy burden of families, communities and society
Road traffic accidents under the influence of alcohol ruin lives and cost the United States more than $44 billion a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In 2015 alone, 10,265 people died in crashes involving intoxicated drivers. Nearly 1.1 million more people were arrested that year on charges of driving under the influence.
The study examined vehicle crashes in that state at a time when Maryland increased sales tax on alcoholic drinks from 6% to 9%. The increase took effect in 2011.
The researchers, led by Marie-Claude Lavoie, found a “significant gradual annual reduction of 6%” in the number of drivers found to be impaired after being involved in crashes with injuries. The reductions were even greater in younger drivers. In the 15-to-20-year-old bracket the decline was more than 50%.
Lavoie and her colleagues examined reports on crashes with injuries involving impaired drivers aged 15 to 95 years. They obtained data for 2001 to 2013 from the Maryland Automated Analysis Reporting System. A driver was classified as “alcohol-positive” – meaning he or she was under the influence of alcohol — based on alcohol test results or a police officer’s reported perception of alcohol involvement.
Increasing alcohol taxes is an important but often neglected intervention to reduce alcohol-impaired driving,” the researchers conclude.
This study is not the first to make such a conclusion. Already in 2009 the American Journal of Public Health published a study of an Illinois tax increase, and came to a similar conclusion:
Increases in alcohol excise taxes, such as the 2009 Illinois act, could save thousands of lives yearly across the United States…”
From 2001 to 2013, a total of 794,729 drivers were involved in crashes with injuries in Maryland. Of those drivers, 57% were men, 37% were aged 35 to 54 years and 4% were classified as alcohol-positive.
The 2011 alcohol sales tax increase in Maryland led to a significant decline in the rate of alcohol-positive drivers aged 15–95 years involved in injury-related motor vehicle crashes,” the researchers write.
Before the alcohol sales tax rose, 228 alcohol-positive drivers were involved in crashes with injuries each month, on average. Afterward, the monthly average fell to about 179.
The decline in the crash rate was greatest among drivers aged 15 to 20 years. The number of drivers in crashes from this age group dropped from about 28 per month, on average, to about 13 a month. This represents a reduction of more than 50%.
The number of drivers aged 55 and older who were in crashes with injuries rose slightly, however — from an average of about 19 a month to about 20 per month. Within this age group, about 60 to 67 percent of intoxicated drivers had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 g/dL, which exceeds the state’s legal limit of 0.08 g/dL. Older drivers may not have changed their behavior as a result of the sales tax increase. They are more likely to have higher disposable incomes than younger drivers.