The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development’s James Macinko, associate professor of public health and health policy, and Diana Silver, assistant professor of public health, have been awarded a $1,039,500 grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to investigate the effects of U.S. state policies on reducing traffic-related deaths and injuries in the U.S.
“Despite progress in recent years, traffic fatalities are a leading cause of death in the U.S.,” says Macinko. “They remain the second-largest contributor to years of life lost before age 75, and are the single-largest cause of death among youth aged 15-24 years.”
According to Silver, the study, “Understanding the Diffusion and Impact of State Alcohol and Traffic Policies,” breaks new ground because it goes beyond an examination of health policies and their impacts on traffic fatalities by exploring how and why some states have adopted more comprehensive policy approaches.
“Our study asks, what has been the long-term health impact of such different policy environments over the past 30 years?” explains Macinko.
Both researchers assert that the study will strengthen the evidence for more comprehensive policy approaches to tackling this public health issue. It will also identify potential barriers and facilitators to adoption of these policies, thereby helping policymakers and legislators craft legislation more likely to be adopted in their own state.
“Little work has been done to understand how and why states differ in the number and types of policies they adopt or repeal,” explains Silver.
In addition to building the evidence base on effective strategies for alcohol and traffic safety, the study results are expected to help perform “policy surveillance” of current state practices, identifying where states may have gaps in their current approach. The study uses policy variation across the U.S. from 1980 to 2010 as a natural experiment to assess how multiple alcohol and safer driving policies may work in concert with—or in opposition to—reducing deaths and injuries over time.
The project is expected to yield insights that may be applicable to other types of public health laws that states enact, such as those related to smoking or nutrition.
Pat Shrout, NYU professor of psychology, and Maurizio Porfiri, an associate professor at NYU-Poly, are also involved in the project. Jean Bae, an alumna of NYU’s Public Health program, will serve as project director.