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Alcohol, Young Drivers, and Traffic Accidents - Effects of Minimum-Age Laws

NCJ Number
A C Wagenaar
Date Published
156 pages
This discussion of the impact of State legislation establishing a minimum drinking age on young people's involvement in alcohol-related crashes focuses on Maine and Michigan, which lowered and later raised their drinking ages.
First examined are recent trends in youths' drinking patterns, the role of alcohol in traffic crashes, and the impact of legislation on drinking and driving practices. Effects of raising the legal drinking age are evaluated, using Maine and Michigan as case studies, since both States lowered their drinking age in the early 1970's to 18 from 20 and 21 respectively and then returned to the higher age in the late 1970's. Neither State law included a grandfather clause whereby young people who could legally drink prior to the increase in age continued to possess that right. Significant reductions in motor vehicle crashes related to alcohol among young drivers occurred after increases in the legal drinking age. Decreases were most pronounced in Michigan, where arrests for driving under the influence among youth also decreased. Analyses of alcoholic beverage sales revealed significant changes associated with modifying the drinking age. The final chapter explores implications of these findings and other research for determining the optimal minimum age for drinking. Additional materials on the research design and methodology, a bibliography, and an index are provided.


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