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Health Econ. 2008 Nov;17(11):1261-75. doi: 10.1002/hec.1321.

Go out or stay in? The effects of zero tolerance laws on alcohol use and drinking and driving patterns among college students.

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  • 1Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD 20850, USA.


Zero tolerance laws make it illegal per se for anyone under age 21 to drive with any measurable amount of blood alcohol. Although a link has been established between zero tolerance laws and lower motor vehicle fatalities, research has not produced strong evidence on how zero tolerance laws influence individual alcohol use and drinking and driving behaviors. Using a unique data set and a difference-in-difference-in-difference-type research design, we are able to analyze a number of pathways through which zero tolerance laws can work among an important underage population, college students. We find that zero tolerance laws reduce drinking and driving among college students. Further analysis of our detailed alcohol use measures suggests that zero tolerance laws are particularly effective at reducing the probability of driving after drinking for those who reported drinking away from home.

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