Volume 23 (2013) Issue 3 Pages 195-204
Background: In Japan, introduction of severe drunk-driving penalties and a lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit in June 2002 was followed by a substantial reduction in fatal alcohol-related crashes. However, previous research suggests that this reduction started before the legal amendments. The causes of the decrease have not been studied in detail.
Methods: Monthly police data on fatal road traffic crashes from January 1995 to August 2006 were analyzed using a joinpoint regression model to identify change-points in the trends of the proportion of drunk-driving among drivers primarily responsible for fatal crashes. We analyzed the data by BAC level (≥0.5 or <0.5 mg/ml), then conducted analyses stratified by vehicle type (car or motorcycle) and age group (<45 or ≥45 years) only for the proportion of those with a BAC of 0.5 mg/ml or higher.
Results: Among all drivers, the proportion of those with a BAC of 0.5 mg/ml or higher and those with a BAC greater than 0 but less than 0.5 mg/ml showed a change-point from increase to decrease in February 2000 and in May 2002, respectively. The proportion of those with a BAC of 0.5 mg/ml or higher showed a change-point from increase to decrease in October 1999 among car drivers and in April 2000 among drivers younger than 45 years. There was no change-point among motorcyclists. A change-point from no trend to a decrease in January 2002 was observed among those 45 years or older.
Conclusions: The change-point identified around the end of 1999 to the start of 2000 suggests that a high-profile fatal crash in November 1999, which drew media attention and provoked public debate, triggered subsequent changes in drunk-driving behavior.