Parenting: The DUI Debate

David Murphy reports: Does the controlled sale of liquor reduce the threat of kids being killed by drunk drivers?
Different reports, different conclusions on the effect state-controlled alcohol sales have on drunk-driving incident rates.
June 6, 2012 8:19:16 AM PDT
As soon as our kids get their driver's license, most parents feel the fear factor rising. We're concerned about our young driver's lack of experience and unsharpened skills and it doesn't take long for the worry to shift to everybody else on the road. It's a minefield out there, and the introduction of alcohol makes things even more dangerous as well as deadly.

Enter the issue of Pennsylvania's state stores, the state's publicly-funded and government-run liquor sales network. They are under the gun politically from some in Harrisburg who would like to see the state sell the stores to a private operator.

There are a lot of arguments for and against the plan, most of them revolving around whether the one-time proceeds from a sale is better than long-term earnings if the stores are not sold.

The issue of drunk-driving is now a part of the conversation. Originally, studies by two economists, John Pulito and Antony Davies, PhD. were published by Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Foundation and George Mason University's Mercatus Center. They concluded that having liquor under the control of state government had no bearing on drunk-driving fatalities.

Now, a new study by the Keystone Research Center is firing back, saying there is a difference when one broadens the research criteria.

In short, the new study says states like Pennsylvania who control liquor sales have fewer fatalities among certain age groups. This includes children under age 15, presumably because it's harder for youngsters to purchase alcohol from state agents than private merchants.

The new study, however, found no statistical difference among teenagers, aged 15 to 19. Among adults, aged 20 and older, the Keystone study finds that fatalities are lower.

The newer study also considered data including average miles driven and per capita income, as control states tend to be in areas where income is lower and people drive farther distances. Overall, the new study claims that without state control, Pennsylvania would see roughly 58 more alcohol-related fatalities per year.

There are political charges flying as to the nature of the varying reports and the difference in data used to determine the study outcomes. Most recently it comes from Keystone, which labels the original research incorrect and wrongly used by lawmakers pushing for the sale of the stores.

If you're interested in delving further into the issue, click here concerning the more recent Keystone study.

For a look at the earlier Davis paper, click here.

---David Murphy

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