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Does expanding hours for alcohol sales increase car accidents?

A sure-fire way to start an impassioned debate is to broach the subject of increasing state revenues by raising taxes on alcohol sales and/or expanding the hours during which establishments with liquor licenses can sell alcoholic beverages.

On the one hand, advocates will say that sizable amounts of money will flow into state coffers that can be applied to programs ranging from social services and highway maintenance to school enhancements and job-training programs. On the other hand, critics will maintain that increasing the hours of alcohol sales will lead to more drinking and, tragically, more car accidents.

The debate is actually ongoing and, well, spirited in a number of states right now, driven largely by a reduction of inflows into state budgets owing to the current recessionary conditions plaguing the United States.

Tennessee, for example, is now allowing tastings at distilleries to encourage alcohol sales within the state. In nearby Illinois, lawmakers were able to raise nearly $100 million last year by hiking liquor taxes. In Georgia, voters will go to the polls next month to decide the fate of legislation that seeks to allow for alcohol sales on Sunday.

David Jernigan, an expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says that legislators who open the gates further for alcohol sales "are taking a very short-sided view." He maintains that any monetary gains realized will be offset "in long-term police costs, emergency room costs and work-force readiness costs in terms of the Monday morning effect."

Related Resource: New York Times, "Alcohol Laws Eased to Raise Tax Money" Sept. 28, 2011

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