Alcohol 'Blue Laws' May Save Lives

Alcohol-Related Crashes Rose After New Mexico Repealed Its 'Blue Laws'

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Michael  Smith, MD
on Friday, October 06, 2006

Oct. 6, 2006 -- "Blue laws" restricting Sunday alcohol sales may cut alcohol-related crashes and save lives.

A new study shows a 42% rise in alcohol-related car crash deaths and a 29% rise in alcohol-related crashes in New Mexico in the five years after the state repealed its blue law.

On July 1, 1995, New Mexico allowed licensed stores to sell alcohol on Sundays. Previously, people in New Mexico could only buy alcohol by the drink in bars and restaurants on that day.

The researchers included Garnett McMillan, PhD, of Albuquerque's Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest. The study appears in the American Journal of Public Health's early online edition.

McMillan's team tracked alcohol-related traffic crashes and crash fatalities in New Mexico from July 1990 through June 2000.

That period spans the five years before and after New Mexico repealed its "blue law."

Data came from police reports for reported crashes on public roads that resulted in death, personal injury, or at least $500 in property damage.

Sunday Alcohol-Related Crashes, Fatalities Up

During the period studied, New Mexico had more than 492,000 motor vehicle crashes. Alcohol was involved in more than 10% of those crashes.

The state's alcohol-related crashes on Sundays rose 29% after the alcohol sales ban was repealed.

A total of 4,620 people in New Mexico died in motor vehicle crashes during the years studied. Roughly half of those crashes were linked to alcohol (2,341 deaths).

New Mexico's alcohol-related crash fatalities on Sundays rose 42% after alcohol sales were allowed in licensed stores.

Those results factor in holidays such as New Year's Eve that happened to fall on Sundays, as well as special occasions like Super Bowl Sunday.

"Our results strongly suggest that increasing alcohol availability on Sunday is associated with increases in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and fatalities," the researchers write.

SOURCE: McMillan, G. American Journal of Public Health, Oct. 3, 2006, online edition.

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