Suspended licenses, suspended lives: the impact of drug-related driver’s license suspensions on traffic fatalities

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November 2019


As part of the War on Drugs, many states passed legislation revoking the driver’s licenses of individuals convicted of drug crimes, even for drug offenses in which no driving offense occurred. These restrictions were supported at the national level, with federal legislation in 1992 requiring states to either pass laws suspending the license of anyone convicted of a drug offense for at least 6 months, or risk losing 10% of certain federal highway funds (although states could also formally ‘opt out’). Reentry advocates contend that these restrictions on driver’s licenses provide a hardship to individuals as they reenter society, making it more difficult for them to maintain stable employment, and placing additional stress on families that shoulder the responsibility of providing transportation. In response, some states have recently chosen to end restrictions on driver’s licenses for individuals that are convicted of non-driving related drug offenses. A critical part of this conversation, however, is whether or not these laws have any safety benefits in terms of traffic accidents. We conduct a fixed effects analysis to determine the impact of these laws on both drug-related traffic fatalities and all traffic fatalities.

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Journal of Crime and Justice





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