The Effects of False Identification Laws on Underage Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities

Wednesday, June 26, 2019: 10:00 AM
Lincoln 2 - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park Hotel)

Presenter: Erik Nesson

Co-Author: Vinish Shrestha

Discussant: Michael Pesko

We examine whether policies which support alcohol retailers in identifying false identification (fake IDs) reduce alcohol-related fatal traffic accidents among underage drivers. We leverage variation in the existence and timing of states’ enactment of these policies, in particular laws which give retailers incentives to adopt ID scanners (FSP laws) and laws which mandate that driver’s licenses for underage drivers be oriented vertically, rather than horizontally (vertical ID laws). We use detailed data on the universe of fatal traffic accidents in the United States between 1998 and 2014 from the Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS). The FARS includes information on the date and location where the crash occurred, the age and blood alcohol content of the driver, and many other characteristics of each fatal traffic accident.

We find that the FSP laws reduce underage alcohol-related traffic fatalities among 16-18 year olds by about 12-15 percent, but we do not find that vertical ID laws lead to statistically significant changes in underage alcohol-related traffic fatalities. We additionally find that our FSP results are robust to a number of falsification tests and specification changes. In particular, we do not find any changes in non alcohol-related traffic fatalities or in alcohol-related traffic fatalities among drivers of legal drinking age after a state passes an FSP law. Finally, we estimate event study models to examine whether there are any trends before FSP law enactment. We find that the reductions in alcohol-related underage traffic fatalities begin one quarter before implementation, consistent with alcohol retailers adopting scanners in the quarter before the FSP laws’ implementation.

To put our FSP results in context, if the 40 states currently without an FSP law adopted them, it would generate roughly $250 million in annual economic benefits.