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Late-night drinking has reduced car crashes, study finds

Allowing pubs and bars to open until later at night sounds like a recipe for disaster when it comes to reducing car crashes, but a report has found evidence to the contrary.

Research by economists at the Lancaster University Management School discovered the number of police crash reports fell 13 per cent a month after the 2005 licensing law reform allowed drinking venues to open until midnight and the early hours.

It also found with the 18- to 25-year-old age bracket benefitted from the biggest decline in accidents.

The university believes the total equates to a reduction of 1,643 deaths every month.

Perhaps further supporting the claim, the biggest decrease in road accidents (23.6 per cent) happened between 11pm and 3am on Saturday and Sunday mornings, a ‘danger period’ when you would expect the most drunk people to be on the roads.

Experts believe there are a number of reasons why the change in opening hours has had a positive effect on car crashes. Chief among those is the fact that people no longer have to drink to ‘beat the clock’ for a few bevvies. Many, it would appear, choose to drink for longer periods and in doing so choose to get taxis home.

Others believe the staggering of closing times of pubs and bars has the knock-on effect of spreading the number of drivers on the roads more thinly. Previously, everyone would be hopping into their car around the old 11pm closing time.

“At the time of passage, it was hoped that reforming closing hours would be part of changing attitudes and behaviour toward alcohol,” researcher Dr Colin Green said. “Supporters felt that eliminating early and uniform closing hours would reduce alcohol related social problems.”

“While we have examined only one of those problems, our evidence does suggest that later closing hours are associated with decreases in automobile accidents,” Dr Green added. “This decrease has been concentrated among the young, those most likely to be influenced, and within the hours of the week where behaviour is most likely to be influenced.”

While a number of factors could also be at work, the AA agreed later opening hours could be a ‘plausible explanation’ for the reduction in road accidents.

More than 60 per cent of pubs have opted for later opening hours. Official figures show 50,114 pubs were granted the late-night opening hours within five months of the licensing law reform. As of 2010, that figure stands at 78,879.

Image: Flickr

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