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30 Years After Drinking Age Law Change, New York Sees Decrease in Fatal Car Accidents

Published February 1, 2016 by Scott Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney
Car crash caused by drinking and driving

A recent article published in The Daily Orange provides some comforting news about driving in New York. Thirty years after the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21, the rate of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the state is down by 60 percent.

According to the article, the number of drunk driving fatalities has dropped from 750 in 1984 to 292 in 2014. While the latter number is still much higher than it should be – the ultimate goal is zero traffic fatalities, related to alcohol or otherwise – the decrease does show a positive trend.

Is a Change in the Legal Drinking Age the Reason Behind the Drop in Deaths?

There is no doubt that a change in the legal drinking age could be one factor behind the decreased number of alcohol-related fatalities. Governor Mario Cuomo enacted the change in the drinking age law in 1985, and a decrease in alcohol-related traffic fatalities has followed.

But it is likely that there are other factors at play that account for the decrease as well. For example, a law passed in New York in 1984 became the first mandatory seatbelt law in the state, which surely helped to reduce the number of fatalities from traffic accidents (see: the December 1, 1984 article published in The New York Times).

How Modern Life Affects The Prevalence of Drunk Driving Fatalities

In addition to the mandatory seatbelt law, cars today are designed to be safer than ever before. Airbags became standard in vehicles, as did anti-lock braking systems. Today, things like blind spot cameras and traction control help keep drivers and their passengers safe from car accidents. Campaigns by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other organizations have also strived to keep drivers safe and sober, as have driver education programs.

Further, it is hard to say whether the number of drunk drivers on the road has actually decreased, or whether the fatality rate in crashes is simply lower. According to data for New York provided by MADD, the most recent figures show that drunk driving fatalities represent 30.4 percent of all traffic deaths, a 7.1 percent increase from the previous year. These data imply that it may not be a lack of drunk drivers on the road due to drinking age laws that is the sole factor behind a decreased number of traffic fatalities since 1984.

What to Do If You Are Involved in an Accident with a Drunk Driver

When drunk drivers get behind the wheel, they endanger themselves and everyone else on the road. If a drunk driver hits you and injures you or your passengers, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

Car accident lawyer Scott C. Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney, is ready to meet with you to discuss your case for free. To learn more about drunk driving car crashes and what to do following an auto accident, contact Scott C. Gottlieb today.

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