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Strict Licensing Laws Cut Drunk Driving

More Restrictive States Reduce Teen DUIs

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Updated June 17, 2009

Young drivers in states with more restrictive driver-licensing laws had lower rates of heavy drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol than those in states with less restrictive laws. That is the finding in a new report that utilizes data analysis of 1999, 2000 and 2001 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Household Surveys.

While nationwide, one in ten drivers aged 15 to 17 reported driving under the influence of alcohol, the drinking and driving increased as the restrictiveness of graduated drivers license laws decreased. In the most restrictive states, 8.2 percent of 15-17 year old drivers reported driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year, while 11.5 percent of young drivers drove under the influence of alcohol in the least restrictive states.

The report, "Graduated Driver Licensing and Drinking among Young Drivers", released by SAMHSA, shows that while six percent of young drivers nationally were heavy drinkers, young drivers in states with the most restrictive graduated licensing laws had lower rates (5.4 Percent) of heavy drinking than did young drivers in states with the least restrictive licensing provisions (7.0 percent).

"This data show us an association between teens who value their driving privileges and states' actions to restrict driving privileges," SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie said. "We need to protect our young drivers by making it clear that drinking and driving are never acceptable, and that there is no safe level of alcohol for inexperienced drivers."

The report was developed from three years of SAMHSA's National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. The survey was modified in 2002 and is now called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The data reflects interviews with 75,000 youth aged 12-17.

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