Alcohol Exclusion Laws and DWI/DUI Traffic Crashes

Alcohol exclusion laws were passed in the late 1940s. They were to discourage people from abusing alcohol.


I.  Background

II. Unintended Consequences


IV. Laws Counterproductive

V.  State Laws

VI. Resources

I. Background

This saves insurance companies money. That’s because they can deny alcohol-related medical claims. These claims could include traffic-related or any other alcohol-related injury. But there was great hope that they would reduce drunk driving.1

The logic seemed reasonable. People would be less likely to drive drunk if insurance companies could deny their claims for that reason.

II. Unintended Consequences

But there is no evidence that these laws reduce drunk driving. But they do discourage hospitals from testing crash patients for alcohol. That’s because insurance companies can refuse to pay doctors and hospitals for treating patients who have alcohol in their bodies. In short, alcohol testing leads to lower doctor and hospital income.

The George Washington University Medical Center explains.

The Alcohol Exclusion Law helps drunk drivers escape detection and avoid taking personal responsibility for their drinking problem. This makes it more likely that drunk drivers will drive drunk again. That adds to the cost of the health care system. And it makes it more difficult for individuals who have problems with alcohol or drugs to access the treatment they need.2

In 2000, 40 states had alcohol exclusion laws. One state prohibited alcohol exclusion. By 2015, 25 states permitted permitted exclusion and 17 prohibited it.3

III. Opposition to Alcohol Exclusion Laws

Not surprisingly the insurance industry supports alcohol and drug exclusion laws. They save the companies vast sums of money. But the National Association of Insurance Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend the repeal of such laws. That’s the group of those who regulate insurance companies.

Other groups that support the repeal of alcohol exclusion laws include these.

IV. Laws are Counterproductive

Alcohol exclusion laws are another example of laws that are counter-productive. Here’s why.

Studies have shown that people who receive brief alcohol counseling in emergency rooms or trauma centers have 48 percent fewer readmissions to the hospital. They also have 28 fewer drinks per person per week. That’s compared to patients who donot receive counseling. For every $1 spent on alcohol counseling for injured patients, hospitals can expect to save $3.81. By discouraging screening and treatment, the Alcohol Exclusion Law leads to more hospital readmissions. To more DUIs, alcohol-related traffic infractions, alcohol-related arrests, and injury-related hospital readmissions.5

V. State Laws

A. Alcohol and Drug Exclusion Clauses Permitted

    • Alabama
    • Alaska
    • Arizona
    • Arkansas
    • Delaware
    • Floridaalcohol exclusion laws
    • Georgia
    • Hawaii
    • Idaho
    • Kansas
    • Kentucky
    • Louisiana
    • Maine
    • Mississippi
    • Missouri
    • Montana
    • Nebraska
    • New Jersey

B. Alcohol and Drug Exclusion Clauses Prohibited

    • California
    • Colorado
    • Connecticut
    • District of Columbia
    • Illinoisalcohol exclusion laws
    • Indiana
    • Iowa
    • Maine
    • Maryland
    • Nevada
    • North Carolina
    • North Dakota
    • Ohio
    • Oregon
    • Rhode Island
    • South Dakota
    • Washington

C. Alcohol and Drug Clauses Neither Permitted nor Prohibited

    • Massachusetts
    • Michigan
    • Minnesota
    • New Hampshire
    • New Mexico
    • Oklahomaalcohol exclusion laws
    • Texas
    • Utah
    • Vermont
    • Wisconsin
    •  New York
    •  Pennsylvania
    •  South Carolina
    •  Tennessee
    •  Virginia
    •  West Virginia
    •  Wyoming 

It appears that alcohol exclusion laws may actually increase drunken driving instead of reducing it.

VI. Resources: Alcohol Exclusion Laws

    • Alcohol and drug exclusion laws are typically found in the Uniform Accident  and Sickness Policy Provisions (UPPL) of a state.
    1. Fact Sheet. George Washington U Med Cent.  Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems website.
    2. Alcohol Policies Information Service.
    3. Fact Sheet.
    4. Ibid.
    5. Ibid.