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Higher drinking age a weak toll measure

Higher drinking age a weak toll measure
Calls by the Sensible Sentencing Trust to consider raising the drinking age, for theorised road safety gains require more attention to context.
A study published by James Fell in the July issue of Accident Analysis and Prevention found that laws making it illegal to possess or purchase alcohol by anyone under the age of 21 had led to an eleven percent drop in alcohol-related traffic deaths among youth - in the United States..
The Candor Trust say this study is poorly applicable to New Zealand, for a variety of reasons. Firstly teenaged drivers who drive drunk only account for 10% of their age group driver deaths in New Zealand, which is insubstantial compared to statistics seen in the USA.
The effectiveness of lower teen alcohol limits and of checkpoints (not a feature of U.S. road policing due to breathalyser inaccuracy) in minimising drink driving harm here speaks for itself. The road safety results of higher drinking ages seen in the US could not translate to New Zealand.
An 11% reduction in teen deaths would require NZ to eliminate checkpoints and start from a much worse drink toll position - much smaller gains would be seen here due to a diminutive youth alcohol crash problem sum total here, as against other teen toll causes.
Approximately 90% of teen fatalities do not feature risky drink levels as per data released by the Ministry of Transport covering the last 5 years.
The Breen report for the Ministry of Transport has also shown that imposing a zero limit for teen drivers would save hardly any lives at all. Initiatives other than drink driving ones are now most important to save teen drivers lives, as most countries with better road safety performance than is found in the U.S.A. are acknowledging - with policy strongly targeting youth drug driving..
The real teen crash issue in New Zealand is likewise drugs, as of at least 5 years standing. Prior illicit drug use is present at 3x the rate of legal drunk driving in deceased teen Kiwi drivers, and high drug driving rates among the young were identified by Candor Trusts November 2007 roadside survey..
The real drink driving problem is among adults statistics clearly show, and it is very difficult to see how raising the drinking age would effect that, let alone have sufficient impact on youth tolls which are predominantly fuelled by non alcohol causes to justify such a major societal change.
Recent studies have also shown that of the drivers coming to harm over alcohol limits many would have crashed even if alcohol intoxication was removed from the equation.
The alcohol-related accident risk in Germany:H. -P. Krügera and M. Vollrath, b
is a paper presenting the first reliable estimation of the alcohol-related accident risk in Germany.  The accident study found that controlling for correlating factors leads to an overall lower estimation than might be assumed.
It indicated that alcohol is consumed by drivers in circumstances which further increase the risk introduced by alcohol. Analyzing the attributable risk (AR) shows about 12% of accidents are truly attributable to alcohol - although it may feature in twice that many crashes. Over 96% of these happen with high BACs.
If the drinking age were to be raised for reasons other than road safety Candor Trust would have no issue with that, however there are several interventions which evidence shows would be far more effective for reducing the impaired driving toll among NZ youth.


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