Policy Documents

The Effect of Sunday Sales of Alcohol on Highway Crash Fatalities

Mark Stehr –
December 1, 2010

A large body of evidence indicates that increased alcohol availability leads to increased consumption of alcohol. From 1995 to 2005, thirteen states relaxed or repealed their bans on the Sunday sale of packaged alcohol. This paper leverages these repeals to provide quasi experimental evidence on the effect of Sunday sales bans on alcohol related crash fatalities. Previous published studies in this area have found conflicting results regarding the effect of Sunday sales on traffic accidents and fatalities, but these studies have focused on repeals in single states, cities, or provinces; are outdated; or have failed to control for underlying changes in traffic fatalities that may be correlated with repeals but are due to other factors affecting traffic safety. Drawing upon data from the lower 48 states from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), this paper finds that only the repeal in New Mexico lead to an increase in fatalities. The effect is evident only in New Mexico because this repeal led to larger increases in drinking in New Mexico than in other states, residents of New Mexico drive more than residents of the other repeal states, and a greater fraction of traffic fatalities involve alcohol in New Mexico than in the other repeal states.