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June 16, 1989

Motor Vehicle Fatalities and the Minimum Drinking Age-Reply

JAMA. 1989;261(23):3411-3412. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420230062023

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In Reply.—  Mr Males suggests that the reported decline in alcohol-related fatalities among young drivers was due more to persistent benefits of the penalty law (and the temporally associated peak in publicity and education) than to the law that raised the drinking age. For a number of reasons, this is not an easy hypothesis to test. The same young drivers who were in high school in 1982 (when the penalty law took effect) composed the age group affected by the drinking age law 2 years later; it might not be possible to separate the effects.In addition, any analysis based on counts of fatal accidents can be highly misleading, especially in a cohort analysis of young drivers. For example, in 1985, the number of licensed drivers in Tennessee by age was 340 (15 years), 9265(16 years), 36 333 (17 years), and 51 756 (18 years). Thus, a 10-fold increase in