NJ: Why do fewer N.J. highway deaths involve alcohol than in neighboring states?
By Steve Strunsky, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
August 11, 2015
Although New Jersey has similar DWI laws to New York and Pennsylvania, the share of highway deaths linked to alcohol is significantly lower in the Garden State than in its neighboring states, a study by New York University found.
And while the study did not try to explain the difference in death rates, experts said possible factors include varying levels of DWI enforcement and education.
The study released this week by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development looked at both the percentage of highway deaths in each of the 50 states that involved alcohol, along with whether or not each state had adopted seven of the most common laws intended to discourage drunk driving. The study used 2013 data.
In New Jersey, 146 of the state’s 542 highway fatalities were alcohol related, or 26.9 percent, compared to 30.4 percent in New York and 30.6 in Pennsylvania. The difference was “significant,” said study author Diana Silver, associate professor of public health at the Steinhardt School. The nationwide rate was 31 percent.
All three states have a zero tolerance law in which impaired drivers under 21 lose their license; an open-container ban; minimum drinking age of 21; and a blood alcohol limit of .08.
“It may be there is more attention to enforcement of some of those laws in New Jersey,” said Silver.
Pam Fischer, a former director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, concurred. In addition to “very strong enforcement” measures by municipal, county and state police, Fischer said programs including Drug Abuse Resistance Eduction, or D.A.R.E. (recently replaced by Keepin’ it REAL) and Student Against Destructive Decisions, or S.A.D.D., had been active throughout the state, instilling lasting anti-drunk driving attitudes in young drivers.
I think we’ve done a very good job in our state of educating young people on this issue,” Fischer said.