Do Higher Alcohol Taxes Mean Less Drunk Driving?

According to a new study conducted in our sister-state, Illinois, there is a direct correlation between the increase in tax on alcohol, and the decrease in alcohol related car accidents. Not sure how that’s possible? OK, lets break it down…

In 2009, the state of Illinois increased their alcohol taxes. In other words, alcoholic drinks became more expensive for the consumer (think Michigan’s cigarette tax). Conversely, the number of people arrested for drunk driving, and the number of alcohol related car accidents, dropped significantly.

In fact, according to the numbers provided by the American Journal of Public Health where the study was published, there was a drop across the board. Drunk driving related deaths were reduced by 9.9 monthly, to result in an astounding 26 percent drop. Among young drivers the numbers were even higher at 37 percent.

Interestingly enough, the effect was the same for both ends of the spectrum. There was a significant decrease in the number of drunk driving fatalities for drivers who were only slightly impaired – 22 percent, and drivers who were extremely drunk – 25 percent.

Well, that makes sense, right? After all, if a drink is a lot more expensive, people can afford less of them and in turn, they drink less. But as it turns out, the increases were nominal at best. The alcohol taxes on beer only went up by 4.6 cents per gallon, while wine only went up by 66 cents per gallon. Spirits and liqueur? A little more of an increase at about 4 dollars per gallon.

But translate that into consumable drinks. Most people don’t drink a gallon of wine. In fact, most people don’t even drink half a gallon of wine. So a 66 cents per gallon increase would end up increasing the cost of a glass of wine by pennies on the dollar. Hardly enough to deter one from having that extra drink, right?

And yet, somehow it worked. So while they’re not sure how this tax hike made the difference that it did, Illinois authorities are grateful. So does something similar lie in store for Michigan? According to the study conclusions, increases in alcohol tax across the nation could save thousands of lives by reducing the number of drunk driving fatalities.

But who knows? Maybe Michigan will decide in the future to pursue higher alcohol taxes in an attempt to reduce the number of drunk driving fatalities we see on an annual basis. What do you think?

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