With stricter traffic laws come fewer DUI-related fatalities among young people

While most us know that drunk driving occurs all too frequently on U.S. roads and highways, we might not fully appreciate just how much of a cost this reckless conduct takes year after year.

However, a recently published study in the medical journal Pediatrics provides some much-needed insight on the scope of the problem, while simultaneously illustrating the need for lawmakers at the state level to start doing more.

As part of the study, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine analyzed a large data pool of fatal car accidents occurring from 2000 to 2013, and determined, rather shockingly, that drunk driving is taking a disproportionate toll on children, teens and young adults.

Specifically, they found that there were 84,756 car accident fatalities among people age 20 and under during this timeframe, with more than 25 percent of these deaths involving a drunk driver, and almost 50 percent occurring on the nights or weekends.

From there, the researchers examined the efficacy of efforts in all 50 states to curb drunk driving via the passage of various measures, including restricted hours for liquor sales, zero tolerance laws, and driving restrictions for teens. Each state was then assigned a score on a scale of 0 to 100 based on the severity of their combined vehicle safety laws, with 100 being the highest.

Armed with these two data sets, the researchers set out to determine whether there was any correlation between the aforementioned drunk driving fatality rates among young people, and the relative strength or weaknesses of the vehicle safety laws of the states.

They found that those states with a tougher package of laws saw fewer fatalities -- with each 10-point difference in score corresponding to a 9 percent lower fatality risk. To illustrate, Utah, with some of the strictest laws earned a 75, while Iowa, with some of the weakest laws, earned a 24.

Given how effective stricter laws were found to be in keeping young people safe from drunk drivers, the study authors suggested that parents living in states without them reconsider implementing them within their own household, meaning things like limiting late night and weekend driving, or setting a limit on the number of passengers for their teens.

Here's hoping this study spurs lawmakers across the nation to adopt a stronger stance toward what has truly become an epidemic.

Always remember to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options for seeking justice if you've lost a loved one in an accident caused by a drunk driver.

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