Associations Between Selected State Laws and Teenagers' Drinking and Driving Behaviors


Reprint requests: Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, Campus Box 8134, 660 South Euclid, St. Louis, MO 63110; Tel.: 314-362-2152; Fax: 314-362-4247; E-mail:



We examined the associations between selected state-level graduated driving licensing (GDL) laws and use-and-lose laws (laws that allow for the suspension of a driver's license for underage alcohol violations including purchase, possession, or consumption) with individual-level alcohol-related traffic risk behaviors among high school youth.


Logistic regression models with fixed effects for state were used to examine the associations between the selected state-level laws and drinking and driving behaviors youth aged 16 to 17 years (obtained from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS); responses dichotomized as “0 times” or “1 or more times”) over an extended period of time (1999 to 2009).


A total of 11.7% of students reported having driven after drinking any alcohol and 28.2% reported riding in a car with a driver who had been drinking on 1 or more occasions in the past 30 days. Restrictive GDL laws and use-and-lose laws were associated with decreased driving after drinking any alcohol and riding in a car with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.


Restrictive GDL and use-and-lose laws may help to bolster societal expectations and values about the hazards of drinking and driving behaviors and are therefore partly responsible for the decline in these alcohol-related traffic risk behaviors.