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Liquor Laws Aid in Curbing Traffic Deaths

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Citing successful campaigns to raise the legal drinking age, alcohol researchers emphasize that the community is an excellent resource in combating teen-age alcohol abuse and eliminating the tragic accidents that accompany it.

In the late 1970's, many states lowered the legal drinking age. Surveys conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that the change was followed by an increase in the number of fatal alcohol-related crashes in the age groups affected.

But beginning in 1976, often in response to public concern, some states began raising the legal drinking age.

Fourteen had done so as of January 1981.

An analysis of fatalities in nine of these states found that the change was followed by a drop in the number of fatal crashes. "On the average, a state that raises its drinking age can expect about a 28 percent reduction in nighttime fatal-crash involvement among drivers the law change applies to," according to the study. The reductions, however, range from 6 to 75 percent.

"It was estimated that in the 14 states that had raised their drinking ages as of January 1981, the result each year is about 380 fewer young drivers involved in nighttime fatal crashes," according to the study.

In the 31 states that had legal drinking ages below 21, the researchers estimated that each year there could be about 730 fewer young drivers involved in fatal nighttime crashes if the legal drinking age were raised to 21, according to the institute.--sw

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