Motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) are a leading cause of death among young people in the United States. We examined the relationship between states’ alcohol policy environments and alcohol-related MVC fatalities among children, adolescents, and young adults under the minimum legal drinking age of 21 years.
We used the Alcohol Policy Scale (APS), an assessment of 29 alcohol policies across 50 states and Washington, DC, developed with the assistance of an interdisciplinary Delphi panel. Using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, we examined APS scores in relation to fatalities of people ≤20 years old from 2000 to 2013 occurring in crashes in which ≥1 involved driver had a blood alcohol content ≥0.08%. Logistic regression was used with a 1-year lag between policies and MVC fatalities and adjusted for potential confounders.
Of 84 756 MVC fatalities of those ≤20 years old during the study period, 23 757 (28.0%) were alcohol related, including deaths of 11 006 (46.3%) drivers, 10 212 (43.0%) passengers, and 2539 (10.7%) pedestrians, cyclists, and others. People killed in alcohol-related MVCs were predominantly male (72.7%) and older (65.5% were 18–20 years old), and 51.2% were non-Hispanic white. Restrictive policy environments were associated with fewer fatalities (adjusted odds ratio, 0.91 per 10-percentage-point increase in APS score; 95% confidence interval, 0.89–0.94). The association was observed for drivers and passengers, male and female decendents, and children, adolescents, and young adults.
More restrictive alcohol policies are associated with reduced alcohol-related MVC mortality among young people. Studies should scrutinize the relationship between policies and fatalities to highlight mechanisms.