According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic accidents in the U.S. claimed the lives of 37,261 individuals in 2008. A full 37 percent of these deaths were alcohol related. Traffic fatalities are a leading cause of death in the U.S. and around the world, and a regular target of government policies enacted to reduce incidence and save lives. The clear link between alcohol consumption and automobile fatalities means that policies aiming to curtail the latter often target the former. Initiatives typically aim to reduce driving under the influence or to reduce alcohol consumption or availability more generally (Kenkel 1993). Yet, as automobile travel has expanded rapidly across the globe over the
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Occasionally, these efforts succeed, as governments try to balance competing health, economic and freedom concerns. In 2006, China enacted its first alcohol ban, applicable to anyone under the age of 18. Even more recently, in May 2009, the government in Fiji lowered its country’s age limit from 21 to 18. With such worldwide political attention, the effectiveness of age control policies has received serious scrutiny. This paper reviews past empirical findings from the literature and also presents new statistical evidence regarding the effectiveness of these policy options. Whereas researchers in the past have primarily focused analysis narrowly within one country or even one state or region, I conduct a large-scale cross-cultural analysis of global age restriction policies in the OECD countries. Specifically, I explore the relationship between traffic fatalities and the presence of age restrictions on the purchase of alcohol as examined in least squares regression models using country-level panel data from 1970 to 2008. I find insufficient evidence of a strong traffic fatality reduction effect occurring in countries after they’ve increased their national minimum legal drinking age.
II. Historical Background & Related Research
Past research into the relationship between age restrictions and traffic fatalities has focused almost exclusively on North America and the legal age limit changes that have occurred in the U.S. and