The effects of increasing penalties in drunk driving laws—evidence from chile

Andrés García-Echalar, Tomás Rau*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This paper analyzes Chile’s drunk driving laws and their effects on car crashes, injuries, and deaths. There were two policy changes. While the 2012 law increased license suspension penalties and decreased the legal blood alcohol limits for drivers, the 2014 law only increased sanctions, including at least one year of actual imprisonment for drunk driving implicated in car crashes with severe injury or death. We use a rich data set of countrywide administrative records that permit us to identify direct measures of alcohol-related accidents, including fatalities and injuries. We also have access to blood alcohol tests to assess whether the laws affected drivers’ alcohol consumption. Using count data models and a rich set of covariates, including police stops and gasoline sales, we find a short-run decrease in accidents and injuries for the 2012 law and a sustained decline in these outcomes for the 2014 law. Neither intervention has an effect on deaths. There is a marginal decline in alcohol consumption after the enactment of both legal changes. However, while the 2012 law only affects male drivers, the 2014 law affects both males and females. No reductions in alcohol intake are found for heavy drinkers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8103
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number21
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by Fondecyt, Project No.1200849.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Car accidents
  • Drunk driving law
  • Increasing penalties
  • Injuries and deaths


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