Monday, May 24, 2010

Never been 18

I had an email last week from a college student seeking some data.  She wanted to know how many MIP arrests, DWI arrests, and alcohol-related traffic crashes occurred in Lincoln when the drinking age was 18, as compared to when the drinking age was 21. Specifically, she was interested in those involving

Here's the problem: the drinking age in Nebraska has never been 18.  It has, however, been 19 and 20.  From 1972 through 1980, Nebraska's legal drinking age was 19.  From 1980 through 1983 it was 20.  Remarkably, I had the data the student wanted from a year in each of the three time periods when the drinking age was 19, 20, and 21.  Here's what I provided her:

Interesting data, I would say. From these you can conclude: the rate of young people being arrested for MIP has risen dramatically, the DWI arrest rate for young people has fallen somewhat, and the percentage of DWI arrests involving a traffic crash has fallen dramatically. Whether any of this is related to the drinking age, however, is unknown from this snapshot of data from three separate years.


Anonymous said...

Verying interesting data! Always my first web view of the morning!

I might add that the "rise" in MIP could likely be due to the fact that it is being ticketed much more now that in was in the "good old days" (at least of MY youth!)

I can remember getting pulled over back in high school with a 6-pack in the car (I was the passenger, not driver then!) and the officer just made me dump it out rather than MIP me.

I don't think there is much of a way to track this either! Is there?

Tom Casady said...


Your perception is correct, in my opinion. I think the large increase in MIP arrests is primarily a function of more emphasis on enforcement. The really dramatic drop--DWIs involved in traffic crashes--is hard to argue with!

Anonymous said...

Chief-The public perception of the average DWI driver is the 55 year old drunk that's drinking in the sleezy bar at 7 AM. The truth is that half of the drunk drivers are under 25 and I'd guess the majority of those are, or recently have been students.

My 23 year-old thinks he's bulletproof (kind of like I did at his age). There is no longer a stigma attached to drunk drivers, in fact they routinely talk about it like it's no big deal, until they get arrested.

Next time you can do a public service add, show a picture of a kid in a UNL sweatshirt next to one of your City Mission residents and just ask "Which one is the DWI driver?" I think people would be shocked.


Anonymous said...

Maybe these figures would mean more if the number of people in the 18 and under, nineteen and under and 21 and under age groups had been given during the various years. The per/100,000 figure included ALL age groups correct?

Gun Nut

NELincolnite said...

The number of crashes has gone up signifigantly! What about the number of hit and runs where you never know if the person at fault was drunk or not? Is the possibility of harsher penalties for DWI's and the public stigma that goes with it making more and more people run when they hit parked cars and other property damage? Thus it looks like the percentage of crashes involving a DWI is going down but really we don't know.

Anonymous said...

There are many reasons why some lout flees from an accident, other than being drunk. Suspended OL, no valid registration, no insurance, outstanding warrants, fictitious plates, stolen car, just hate cops, contraband in the car, a point or two left until their OL gets yanked, on parole or probation and doing something that would get them a VoP, etc. There are also H&R incidents that don't get reported because of the above reasons on the victim's part.

Personally, I'd like to see the max BAC allowed be the same for adult drivers as it is for minors (0.020).

Tom Casady said...


Actually, while the number of crashes has certainly increased, it's been proportional to population growth. The crash rate is virtually unchanged.

1977: 3,434 per 100,000 pop.
1982: 3,334 per 100,000 pop.
2009: 3,441 per 100,000 pop.

In addition the percentage of all crashes that were hit & run crashes has declined.

1977: 1,780 of 5,906 (30.1%)
1982: 1,903 of 5,862 (32.5%)
2009: 2,337 of 8,779 (26.6%)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps one reason for a lower rate of H&R crashes is that it didn't used to be a felony to flee an injury collision, but it is now.

I also think that with the cell phone being nearly ubiquitous among observers and witnesses to most collisions (including witnesses who are perfectly willing to call 911 while tailing the absconder until a cruiser can vector in), more drivers stick around and face the music.

Anonymous said...

x804: that was my step-daughter that made the request. She was given the assignment in Sociology class and of course thought she could hit me up for the info. I directed her to your blog and email for the info. I took the liberty of telling her you LOVED requests such as hers...which, judging by the subject of today's blog, proves I was right!!

Anonymous said...

Wyoming didn't increase the drinking age to 21 until 1988, after every other state did. The number of alcohol related crashes, especially on border roads, decreased dramatically when the age limit was changed. Furthermore, Wyoming closed all containers about 3 years ago. Once again we have seen a dramatic decrease in alcohol related accidents. I think its safe to say age limit and open container laws have played a huge role in those decreases.

Watchful said...

Unfortunately, there is not a means to collect data to account for all the other variables. One interesting stat to observe would be that of repeat offenders. Now, it seems more often, there are drivers out there with multiple offences, and worse, still driving. What are those stats Chief?

For whatever reason, the courts seem to keep believing that they are repentant and suspend their license for a time, give them a fine and kick them loose. Detox is where officers leave the dui suspects, only to have them back soon thereafter.