A new study led by researchers at the University of Maryland shows a 6 percent decrease in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes, since the state increased the alcohol sales tax from 6 to 9 percent in 2011.
Researchers were surprised by the findings, but the decline for drivers between the ages of ages of 15 and 34 was more even more prominent, with a 12 percent drop in harmful accidents. Researchers believe these findings are because younger drivers pay closer attention to the price of alcohol than older drivers.
“If there was no tax we would have seen the rate go down, but not to that level,” said Marie-Claude Lavoie, an epidemiologist in the University of Maryland’s department of epidemiology and public health and the study’s lead author. “The rate was already declining, but we saw declines larger than expected, much larger among young drivers.”
Drivers over the age of 55 saw a 5 percent increase in alcohol-related accidents and those between the ages of 35 and 54 went unchanged. Unlike other states that only increase prices on alcohol volume, Maryland increased the sales tax, which becomes more noticeable at the point of sale.
The nearly $70 million revenue from the alcohol sales tax increase goes directly toward education and health programs. The president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, Vincent DeMarco, said there is no future plan to seek another tax.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been pushing ignition interlocks that would require a driver to pass a Breathalyzer test, before starting the vehicle’s ignition system. The nonprofit advocates stopping drunk and drug driving, but hasn’t advocated for a new alcohol tax.
The “Effect of Maryland’s 2011 Alcohol Sales Tax Increase on Alcohol-Positive Driving” study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.