State laws designed to help teens gradually ease into full driving privileges may have an unintended benefit: They appear to lower rates of teen alcohol consumption and binge drinking. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that in states with stricter graduated driver licensing laws, there not only is less drinking and driving among teens, there also is less total alcohol consumption by teenagers.
MANY STATES HAVE ADOPED LAWS IN RECENT YEARS THAT ARE DESIGNED TO MAKE THE ROADS SAFER BY ALLOWING TEEN DRIVERS TO GRADUALLY EASE IN TO FULL DRIVING PRIVILEGES. BUT NEW RESEARCH FROM WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS FINDS THAT THOSE LAWS ALSO APPEAR TO BE HAVING AN UNINTENDED EFFECT: THEY APPEAR TO BE HELPING LOWER THE RATES OF TEEN ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION AND BINGE DRINKING. JIM DRYDEN REPORTS
SO-CALLED GRADUATED DRIVER LICENSING LAWS, OR GDLs, MIGHT RESTRICT THE NUMBER OF PASSENGERS A NEW DRIVER CAN HAVE IN THE CAR AT ONE TIME. SOME LAWS ALSO KEEP YOUNG DRIVERS OFF THE ROADS LATE AT NIGHT OR LIMIT FULL DRIVING PRIVILEGES IN OTHER WAYS IN AN ATTEMPT TO MAKE THE ROADS SAFER. WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY RESEARCHER PATRICIA CAVAZOS-REHG SAYS THE LAWS ARE MEANT TO EASE TEENS INTO DRIVING.
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States have become more restrictive over time, but there is
still some progress that could be made. So not, not all states
have implemented fully restrictive GDLs yet.
CAVAZOS-REHG HAD STUDIED THESE LAWS A FEW YEARS AGO AND FOUND THAT TEENS IN STATES WITH STRICTER GDLs TENDED TO DRINK AND DRIVE LESS. THIS TIME, TAKING ANOTHER LOOK, CAVAZOS-REHG AND HER COLLEAGUES ANALYZED INFORMATION FROM MORE THAN 129 THOUSAND HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE NATIONAL MONITORING THE FUTURE SURVEY, AND SHE SAYS THEY FOUND THAT STRICTER GDL LAWS HAD AN EFFECT ON DRINKING ITSELF.
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GDLs also had an unintended effect on reducing their drinking
behaviors. When the GDLs became, were, more restrictive, kids
tended to drink less.
THE GDL LAWS HAD A BIGGER IMPACT ON TEEN DRINKING THAN ALCOHOL TAXES, OR SO-CALLED USE-AND-LOSE LAWS. CAVAZOS-REHG SAYS THAT MAY BE PARTLY DUE TO THE FACT THAT TAXES ON ALCOHOL TEND TO BE PRETTY LOW.
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States do continue to drive up those prices with cigarette
taxes. Unfortunately, with alcohol taxes, those dont add a
lot to the price of alcohol. And then the use-and-lose laws
are different because the kid actually has to be caught
engaging in the bad behavior to then lose their drivers
license. Thats different from the GDLs. So the GDL is more
theres rules and structure, and the kids know very clearly
what they should be doing.
THE STATE GDL LAWS ARE SCORED ON A SYSTEM DEVELOPED BY THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY. ACCCORDING TO THEIR GRADING SYSTEM, 35 STATES HAD GDL LAWS RANKED AS GOOD. THOSE GOOD LAWS CUT RISK BEHAVIORS BEHIND THE WHEEL, BUT THEY ALSO MAY HAVE OTHER, MORE FAR-REACHING ADVANTAGES.
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There is a policy in place that clearly shows that these risk
behaviors are being impacted in a way that we want to see, that
not only could have short-term benefits, but really could help
improve lives over the long haul.
AND CAVAZOS-REHG SAYS NOT DRINKING AS MUCH DURING THE TEEN YEARS COULD PAY BIG BENEFITS LATER ON.
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The earlier that these drinking behaviors begin, the higher the
likelihood that the behaviors will transition into addiction. The
more that we can implement policies that can delay these behaviors,
and prevent these behaviors from happening, the better off that we
are at a population level.
THE NEW STUDY IS PUBLISHED IN THE JOURNAL ALCOHOLISM: CLINICAL & EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH. IM JIM DRYDEN…