Do blue laws save lives? The effect of Sunday alcohol sales bans on fatal vehicle accidents

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Abstract

This paper analyzes the effect of state-level Sunday alcohol sales restrictions (“blue laws”) on fatal vehicle accidents, which is an important parameter in assessing the desirability of these laws. Using a panel data set of all fatal vehicle accidents in the U.S. between 1990 and 2009 combined with 15 state repeals of blue laws, we show that restricting alcohol sales on Sunday has at most a small effect on fatal accident rates. Using American Time Use Survey data, we find no effect of blue laws on the location of consumption, and we show that the group whose drunk driving behavior is most affected by these laws is underage men. Overall, these results suggest that Sunday alcohol sales restrictions have fewer secular public health benefits, at least in terms of vehicle fatalities, than previously believed. © 2011 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

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