Two federal policies meant to make it harder for young people to acquire alcohol have significantly reduced drunken-driving deaths, says a study reported by the New York Times. The policies – banning possession of alcohol by people under 21 and making it illegal to use false identification to buy alcohol – have been in effect in all 50 states since at least 1988, when Congress made them a condition for federal highway money.
In the July issue of Accident Analysis and Prevention, scientists calculate that the possession and purchase laws reduced the ratio of drinking to nondrinking drivers involved in fatal crashes by about 11 percent. Laws requiring an automatic license sanction for the use of fake IDs resulted in a 7 percent decrease. “Raising the drinking age to 21 does save lives,” said James Fell of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, “and while every state makes it illegal to have a fake ID, they really should strongly consider a driver's license sanction for the offender.”