As the old saying goes: There is a time and a place for everything, and that time and place is college. Besides learning philosophy and biology, many college students also learn their preferences in alcoholic beverages (one hopes they choose single malt scotch). Certain alarmists (you know who you are MADD) have claimed that toll that drinking in college includes as many 1,700 students killed annually in drunk driving accidents. The main study from which this figure is derived is a near perfect example of how to conjure any conclusion one wants from the thinnest of data. In this case, the study found alcohol-related traffic deaths was 15.2 per 100,000 college students.
The Daily Progress, the local paper in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I spend most of my time, reports that a new study by James Turner at the University of Virginia finds that the earlier estimate is about ten times too high. From The Daily Progress:
Researchers at the University of Virginia say the reported death rate of college students due to drunken driving is grossly overrated, according to a study released Tuesday.
Dr. James C. Turner, executive director of UVa Student Health, and a team of researchers have spent more than three years studying data from colleges across the state.
Their work suggests drunken driving caused only a fraction of the deaths of college students in 2007, the year they studied. Turner's findings, which appeared in a recent Journal of American College Health (JACH), show that DUI-related death rates among college students in Virginia were between 1.7 and 4.3 per 100,000 students.
Previous studies have had estimates as high as 14.1 to 15.2 deaths per 100,000 college students, Turner said.
"Until now, all leading estimates were based not on actual measures of college student data but rather on the assumption that college student drinking and driving fatality rates were the same as the general population," Turner said.
Turner said preliminary research into data on a national level is comparable to his research in Virginia. Those findings are expected to be released within the next year.
We must always protect the kids, even if researchers have to make up data to justify pointless prohibition.