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Can tougher laws reduce drunk driving?

Like any other state, Massachusetts has its fair share of cases involving adults and minors driving under the influence. The accidents often caused by intoxicated drivers lead to some of the most heartbreaking incidents reported in the news. In spite of this, Americans continue to drink and drive at alarming rates.

According to CNN, 110 million people drive under the influence each year and 1 percent of that number face arrest and charges. To help curb this problem, many states have enacted policies and laws against driving while intoxicated. You are likely familiar with the following:

  •          Sobriety checkpoints
  •          Reduced legal blood alcohol concentration
  •          Rigid enforcement of zero-tolerance policies for minors
  •          Making ignition interlocks mandatory for DWI offenders

But, do these practices work? You may be surprised to know they do. States with tougher alcohol-related laws do see a reduction in not just fatal crashes involving alcohol use, but alcohol consumption in general. In fact, a new study found that a 10 percent increase in the strength of state laws regarding alcohol can lead to a reduction in fatal accidents resulting from alcohol-impairment. The study found that if every state committed to this, an additional 800 lives could be saved each year.

Perhaps one of the most interesting features of the study is that the focus is not only on strengthening laws specifically related to drunk driving. The study concluded that even limiting the number of liquor stores in an area and hiking up alcohol taxes helped to keep drunk drivers off the road. This provides food for thought, particularly for researchers and law enforcement officers who may have previously focused more on catching drunk drivers in the act, rather than tackling the source.

This article provides information on how strengthening alcohol-related laws may reduce drunk driving and should not be misconstrued as legal advice.

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