Drinking age linked to rise in crash risk

NZ Herald 24 April 2014
Lowering the alcohol purchase age has been linked to a long-term increase in the chance of drunk drivers aged 18 or 19 being involved in car crashes that cause death or injury.

The age for buying alcohol was lowered to 18, from 20, in 1999. There has been regular debate about it since, but in 2012, MPs voted 68 to 53 to keep the age at 18 — contrary to the Law Commission’s recommendation to return the age to 20.

Short-term studies have linked the change to an increase in the serious-crash risk for intoxicated drivers directly affected — those aged 18 and 19 years old.

Now, in the first long-term study, Massey University researchers Dr Taisia Huckle and Karl Parker have found this increased risk has become the new normal.

In the years leading up to the change, drivers aged 18 or 19 had roughly the same chances as those aged 20 to 24 of having an “alcohol-involved” vehicle crash that caused injury or death.

That increased in the years following the change, putting the younger drivers at 15 per cent greater risk in the first six years, then at 21 per cent greater risk up to 2010.

Law change link to rise in drunk teen crashes
Stuff.co.nz 25 April 2014
Since the lowering of the alcohol age, 18- and 19-year-old drivers have become significantly more likely to be involved in serious crashes while over the drink-drive limit.

Before the drinking age was lowered from 20 to 18 in 1999, teen drivers in New Zealand had about the same odds as motorists aged 20 to 24 of being in an injury-causing accident while over their respective legal alcohol limit, new Massey University research shows.

Now they are 21 per cent more likely to be in such a crash.

Researcher Taisia Huckle says the conclusion of the study is obvious – the alcohol purchase age needs to go back up to 20.

To capture the effect of the lowered alcohol purchase age, researchers compared crash data and drivers’ blood alcohol results in the years before and after the law change, in the study published in the American Journal of Public Health last week.