Belsky Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC A Personal Injury & Workers’ Compensation Law Firm

Did Maryland's alcohol sales tax increase help lower DUI crashes?

There is no disputing the toll that drunk driving accidents take on U.S. roads and highways. Indeed, statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that 2015 alone saw over 1.1 million DUI arrests and, more significantly, a staggering 10,265 lives lost in DUI-related crashes. As if this wasn't shocking enough, the CDC puts the price tag of these crashes at over $44 billion per year.

Given staggering numbers like these -- and the sad reality that they are by no means a statistical anomaly -- the question has always been what can be done to lower impaired driving rates. One suggestion that has been consistently floated by vehicle safety experts has been to limit alcohol intake by raising the sales tax on spirits, wine and beer. 

As it turns out, several states have done exactly this over the years, but with slightly different intentions. Specifically, the primary motivation has been not enhancing public safety, but rather filling coffers.

By way of example, Maryland passed a law back in 2011 increasing the alcohol sales tax from 6 percent to 9 percent in a bid to raise much-needed revenue for public schools and various programs.

Interestingly enough, a group of researchers from the University of Maryland recently published a study in which they sought to determine what effect, if any, the state's alcohol sales tax increase may have inadvertently had on the rates of alcohol-related injury crashes.

After analyzing police crash reports involving "alcohol-positive" drivers between 15-95 years old from 2001 to 2013, the researchers discovered "the alcohol sales tax increase … led to a significant decline in the rate of alcohol-positive drivers…"

Breaking the numbers down further, the researchers determined the following:

  • On average, 228 alcohol-positive drivers were involved in injury-causing crashes every month prior to the sales tax hike, but this number fell to 179 after its introduction.
  • Drivers 15-20 years old saw the biggest declines in the average DUI-related crash rate, which fell from 28 per month to 13 per month, over 50 percent.

This has been a truly a fascinating development. Here's hoping this trend continues and that it shows state lawmakers just how effective adopting more stringent -- and specific -- drunk driving legislation can be.

If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in an accident caused by an intoxicated driver, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options for seeking justice.

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