One of the lingering problems from the financial collapse and recession is that consumers now have fewer assets and lower income, meaning less consumption and demand. In terms of the economy as a whole, this reduced demand has led to even more job losses, which (in turn) leads to even more unemployment — certainly not beneficial for the economy. For things that are probably best if consumed in moderation, though, the recession has led to some positive outcomes: in a new report the Center for Disease Control has found that drunk driving has dropped 30% since the recession began, most likely because of the cost of drinking out.
Though there are still 112 million incidents of drunk driving in the US annually, this is the lowest number ever on record, especially compared to the peak in 2006 of 161 million. For reference, though, the current levels are at 497 incidents for every 1000 American adults. Although since those incidents are only concentrated in 1.8% of respondents, that’s still staggering.
Perhaps the most shocking part of the study, though, is the massive drop witnessed in the past four years, especially because binge-drinking has not gone down. The CDC hypothesizes that “possible factors include less discretionary driving as a result of the current economic downturn and possible changes in drinking location to places where driving is not required such as at home.” This makes sense, especially in light of Europe’s current economic experience with liquor: out across the pond, they are experiencing liquor stagflation that is forcing most consumers out of the pubs and back into their homes.
All of this goes to show that it is actually quite easy to reduce the levels of drunk driving in the US. We can see from this study that when the relative cost of drunk driving increases there are significantly fewer incidents. Economists have for years been calling for higher alcohol taxes to do just that: increase the price of drinking so that people will do it less, leading to fewer negative social outcomes. After these recent CDC numbers, we can only hope that policy makers will impose price regulations that further reduce binge drinking that leads to drunk driving.
Photo credit: James Cridland's Flickr stream.