The Worldwide Decline in Drinking and Driving

While this research is not new, it is worth revisiting. In 1993 traffic safety experts convened from six countries to report on progress against the drinking and driving problem. Statistical records kept from 1982-1992 for alcohol-related traffic fatalities in each of the following countries show the following trends:

United Kingdom: 50% Decline
Germany: 37% Decline
Australia: 32% Decline
The Netherlands: 28% Decline
Canada: 28% Decline
United States: 26% Decline

This downward trend in drunk driving across the board shows quite clearly that the 21 year-old drinking age in the United States was, at best, the least effective measure to limit drunk driving amongst these developed countries and, more likely, is falsely credited as the key to changing social mores that in fact changed across all industrialized countries with no drinking age changes. Amongst these six countries only the US raised the drinking age (in 1984) to curb drunk driving; others adopted policies that recognized drinking and driving as an especially dangerous outcome of irresponsible drinking behavior. Rather than target drinking, they targeted behavior. Nearly all countries stepped up intoxicated driving enforcement and lowered legal BAC level. The Netherlands, recognizing that drinking and driving was a behavior best limited if prevented early, lowered BAC levels further for young drivers. Not a single country outside of the US lowered the drinking age, and yet every last one of them managed to reduce alcohol-related fatalities at higher rates than the US. It would seem that the drinking age then is the least effective way to reduce drinking and driving.

One Response to “The Worldwide Decline in Drinking and Driving”

  1. Michael Says:

    Part of the decline can be attributed to the new wave of “shock” anti drunk driving PSAs. The most effective of these is “Before and After.” You can watch this on