Vice Squad
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Zero Tolerance for Alcohol With Youthful Drivers

Vice Squad is not all that keen on zero tolerance (ZT) policies aimed at adult vice. But Phil Cook's Paying the Tab notes at least one dimension of success with respect to zero tolerance policies targeted at young drivers (those under 21, and hence, in the US, unable to legally purchase alcohol) who consume alcohol. Congress pressured individual states to adopt ZT laws (not unlike the manner in which in Congress adopted an effectively national minimum drinking age and blood-alcohol standard for drunk driving), which enhanced penalties for underage drivers who were operating their vehicles after drinking any detectable amount of alcohol whatsoever.
All the states had come into line by 1998. The resulting natural experiment generated strong evidence that the ZT laws reduced by 13-20 percent binge drinking and total alcohol consumption by males. Thus, the demand for alcohol was reduced by limiting one unfortunately complementary activity, namely, driving.
The quote, minus an internal citation, is from pages 78-79 of Paying the Tab.

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