The 2011 increase in Maryland’s alcohol sales tax led to a decrease in traffic injuries involving alcohol, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Researchers from the University of Maryland Baltimore found that the alcohol sales tax increase resulted in a 6 percent annual reduction in the rate of alcohol-positive drivers involved in an injury crash with an even more pronounced effect among younger drivers.
The alcohol sales tax impacted drivers 15 to 20 years old and 21 to 34 years old more than the older age groups. Among young drivers, there was a 12 percent annual reduction following the alcohol sales tax increase.
“Our findings are consistent with earlier studies that show younger drivers are more sensitive to alcohol taxes” said Marie-Claude Lavoie, PhD, lead author of the study from University of Maryland Baltimore, who received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Public Health Law Research dissertation grant to support part of the study.
Young drivers may be more sensitive to price because they have less disposable income in comparison to older drivers.
This study is the first to examine the impact of an alcohol sales tax change on motor vehicle injuries. Previous research has examined the effects of alcohol excise taxes, which are already included in the price tags on the shelves. For alcohol sales taxes, however, the tax is added at cash register after consumers have already made their purchase decisions. Alcohol sales tax, contrarily to alcohol excise taxes, affects simultaneously all types of alcoholic beverages (spirits, wine, and beer) and it is based on the retail price of the alcoholic beverage. The Maryland alcohol sales tax was raised from 6 percent to 9 percent in 2011.
Researchers pooled crash data from 2001 to 2013 to examine the effects of the alcohol tax on alcohol-positive drivers involved in injury-crashes in Maryland. The authors’ analysis included whether other external factors could have led to the changes in the rates of alcohol-positive drivers.
“In our analysis, we carefully examined whether changes in socio-economic factors, or modifications to traffic safety and alcohol control laws in Maryland during our study period could have impacted the results,” Dr. Lavoie said. “Overall, we believe that the changes we are seeing are associated with the increase to the alcohol sales tax.”
The findings of this study may be relevant to other states that are planning to implement tax policy changes such as increasing alcohol taxes to prevent motor vehicle injuries and fatalities involving alcohol. This effective type of intervention is especially relevant considering that approximately 31 percent of all traffic-related deaths are due to alcohol-impaired driving, according to the CDC.