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Less Drunk Driving: Can Good Come From Recession?

Less Drunk Driving: Can Good Come From Recession?


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.


Related Stories:

Minimum Wages Rise Across Country

Suicide Rate Spikes In Greece Because of Economy

Is Booze Causing Europe’s Economic Woes?


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Photo credit: James Cridland's Flickr stream.

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7:59AM PDT on Oct 8, 2011

If there appears to be fewer drunk driver cases in court, then it is because police officers have been laid off due to budget cuts and they don't have the coverage to catch OUI offenders. The other piece could be that so many people have lost their jobs, they've also lost their wheels so they have nothing to drive or no money for gas!

7:53AM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

Another unintended benefit of the recession is the decrease in birth rates. You'd think this would rile up the Conservatives enough to stimulate the economy to get those baby-making machines (er, women) running again, but I guess making Obama fail is a bigger priority for them. Go figure.

4:27AM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

How much did Prohibition, ( between 1920 to 1933 ) relate to the Great Depression ( starting from the Wall Street Crash in October 1929 & lasting until 1936 [with a 2nd dip in '38 ] --------affect
drinking habits?

Complicated social issues.....

Add to that the new factor of Narcotics / Illegal Drugs ---- that wasn't ther pre WW 11 -- and you've have to be a genius to work it all out.

2:38AM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

The economy is so bad, they may not be driving because their cars were repossessed.

7:44PM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

Of course good has come from the recession. The reduction of manufacturing has greatly improved air quality and also slowed the destruction of precious natural resources. people now have time, if unemployed, to prepare their own food and avoid unhealthy fast food restaurants. They can even produce their own beer or wine at about half price with a minimum of labor as I do. I prefer to look on the bright side and think of the glass as1/8th full rather than 7/8ths empty.

5:11PM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

Let's call this economic climate what it is; a depression and it's quite depressing.

People are cutting expenses in every way they possibly can so for the individual and their family, reducing the amount of drinking they do (particularly when away from home) is a good thing because it gives the family a bit more money to spend on necessities. Unfortunately, I don't think the economy has reduced overall drinking because alcoholic beverages are available for purchase and therefore consumption at home. People are depressed about their financial situation and so some do tend to turn to alcohol (and other substances) for a temporary escape from their worries.

4:39PM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

Yes, the recession (DEPRESSION???) is cutting down on drinking in public -- such as at a bar and therefore cuts back on driving home from said bar BUT what is also a statistic that complements this weak statement is that when drinking at home, domestic violence PEAKS!! Perhaps this would be a more interesting and informative article if it included facts like that one...

3:54PM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

Hey let's go to a hospital full of amputees, and tell them it is good that they don't have legs because now they can accessorize their wheelchairs, and they will always have a place to sit. :D


You don't think that's a good idea?

Maybe a little insensitive?

Yeah, I think so too.

3:51PM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

Saying the recession is good because it cuts down on drunk driving is like saying cancer is good because now you can catch up on episodes of Law and Order now that you confined to bed.


3:19PM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

Perhaps the recession has required counties to cut their budgets and thus the number of police they can might look like there's less drunk driving, but maybe it's just fewer drunk drivers getting busted.

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