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Impacts of the Minimum Legal Drinking Age on Motor Vehicle Collisions in Québec, 2000−2012

  • Russell C. Callaghan
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Russell C. Callaghan, PhD, University of Northern British Columbia, Northern Medical Program, 3333 University Way, V2N 4Z9, Prince George British Columbia, Canada
    Affiliations
    Northern Medical Program, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, British Columbia

    Human Brain Laboratory, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

    Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
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  • Jodi M. Gatley
    Affiliations
    Northern Medical Program, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, British Columbia

    Human Brain Laboratory, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
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  • Marcos Sanches
    Affiliations
    Biostatistical Consulting Unit, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario
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  • Mark Asbridge
    Affiliations
    Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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      Background

      International debates are occurring about the effectiveness of minimum legal drinking age laws. Most minimum legal drinking age evaluation studies have focused on motor vehicle collision outcomes, but this literature is primarily based on naturalistic experiments involving legislation changes in the U.S. in the mid-1980s. Few studies have provided up-to-date estimates of the impacts of Canadian drinking age laws on motor vehicle collisions to inform current policy discussions.

      Purpose

      To estimate the impacts of minimum legal drinking age legislation on motor vehicle collisions occurring in 2000–2012 in Québec, a province with a minimum legal drinking age of 18 years.

      Methods

      Using Québec Ministry of Transportation records of police-reported motor vehicle collisions in 2000−2012, regression-discontinuity analyses were employed to assess the impacts of the minimum legal drinking age on motor vehicle collisions. All data were analyzed in 2013.

      Results

      Relative to individuals slightly younger than the minimum legal drinking age, male and female drivers just older than the minimum legal drinking age had a significant and abrupt increase of approximately 6% (men, 6.3%, p=0.003; women, 5.9%, p=0.047) in population-level motor vehicle collisions, as well as a significant 11.1% (p=0.001) rise in nighttime motor vehicle collisions (a proxy for alcohol-related collisions).

      Conclusions

      Drinking-age laws continue to be an integral component of contemporary alcohol-control and driving-related policies designed to limit motor vehicle collisions among youth. In addition, the regression-discontinuity approach can guide future work to estimate potential minimum legal drinking age impacts on other health outcomes.
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