Are zero-tolerance drinking and driving laws effective in reducing traffic deaths? Brazil implemented a zero tolerance traffic law.
Researchers examined the impact of this law. Data on both traffic deaths and population came from an official source. It was the Brazilian Ministry of Health. Researchers analyzed the results of zero-tolerance in three of the major capitals in Brazil. They were Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, and Sao Paulo.
There were no changes in the traffic fatality rates before and after the law in two cities. Those were Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. But after the law was adopted the rate jumped in Sao Paulo. Yet it had been declining there before the new law.
This shows that simple solutions to complex problems may not be effective. Many other “common sense” policies are also ineffective. An example is applying more severe punishment for those who drive drunk. That may seem reasonable. But it’s the perception of certainty rather than severity of punishment that reduces DUI.
And increasing the cost of alcohol might seem helpful. But that has virtually no impact on reducing drunk driving. Heavy drinkers cause most traffic deaths. Higher costs don’t deter them. Also, most minors who drink don’t buy their alcohol.
Nor is popularity of a program linked with effectiveness. Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) is very popular. Yet research finds it ineffective. Even worse, it’s sometimes even counter productive.
It appears that zero-tolerance drinking and driving laws are probably ineffective.
Zero-tolerance Drinking and Driving Laws
Not all of these are about zero-tolerance drinking and driving laws. But all concern the effectiveness of zero-tolerance.
- Volpe, F., et al. Evaluating the Brazilian zero-tolerance drinking and driving law. Traf Inj Prev, 18(4), 337-343.