Research & Resources

Alcohol Enforcement in the United States From 2010 to 2019

In this study, researchers surveyed a random sample of U.S. local law enforcement agencies (i.e., police, sheriff) in 2010, resurveying 1,028 in 2019. Researchers assessed changes in alcohol control enforcement strategies and priorities within three domains: alcohol-impaired driving, alcohol sales to obviously intoxicated patrons (i.e., overservice), and underage drinking. Agencies reported placing higher priority on enforcement of alcohol-impaired driving and overservice laws in 2019 versus 2010. Researchers found increases in certain alcohol-impaired driving enforcement strategies over time, including the use of saturation patrols and the enforcement of laws prohibiting open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles, but not in the use of sobriety checkpoints. Approximately 25% of agencies conducted enforcement of overservice laws in both 2010 and 2019. For all strategies directed at underage drinking, enforcement decreased over time, with more agencies using strategies aimed at underage drinkers than alcohol suppliers (alcohol outlets and adults) in both 2010 and 2019. Overall, agencies reported continued low levels or declines in enforcement across most strategies, despite reported increases in prioritizing enforcement of alcohol laws. Researchers emphasized that more agencies should adopt alcohol control enforcement strategies, including increasing their focus on suppliers of alcohol and increasing awareness and enforcement around selling alcohol to obviously intoxicated patrons.

This paper, “Alcohol enforcement in the United States from 2010 to 2019,” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and published in the Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs.

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