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New tax law causes drunk driving fears

The changes to federal tax laws have created confusion, protest and celebration. More drunk driving car accidents may be another unexpected result.

The law, approved on Dec. 22, will lower taxes on forms of alcohol such as wine, beer, whiskey, vodka and tequila. The largest tax reductions will go to larger manufacturers although proponents touted the economic benefits for small craft brewers. Some manufacturers will save $1.6 billion in 2018.

Federal taxes on alcohol have been levied since 1791. The last rise was approved in 1991 and receipts have not kept pace with inflation. The federal government received $10.6 billion in 2016 from taxes on wine, beer and liquor.

The lowering of alcohol taxes is much different than the treatment of other public health threats such as cigarettes which has had a 1,500 percent tax increase since 1970. Public-health advocates argue that the 16 percent decrease in alcohol taxes will cause more drunk driving, underage drinking and other alcohol-related problems.

Public health advocates claim that the health and safety consequences of this tax decrease will be extremely serious. They argue that there is a strong link between tax rates and alcohol consumption, according to academic research. Mothers Against Drunk Driving said that the decrease does not help in its fight against drunk driving.

Lower alcohol prices lead to higher rates of alcohol consumption and more alcohol-related issues, according to the head of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at John Hopkins University. He said that policymakers have been unaware of the public health ramifications of taxes and alcohol consumption.

The Senator who sponsored this tax provision claimed that it will have these consequences. Another Senator said that Congress cannot legislate moderation.

A car accident caused by a drunk driver can lead to serious injuries and death. Victims of this illegal and reckless behavior should seek legal assistance to help assure they can pursue compensation for injuries and other losses.

Source: Politico, "Tax cut on booze triggers fears for more abuse and drunk driving," By Brian Faler, Dec. 31, 2017

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