Background Taiwan has some of the strictest alcohol-related driving laws in the world. However, its laws continue to be toughened to reduce the ever-increasing social cost of alcohol-related harm. Aim This study assumes that alcohol-related driving laws show a spillover effect such that behavioral changes originally meant to apply behind the wheel come to affect drinking behavior in other contexts. The effects of alcohol driving laws and taxes on alcohol-related morbidity are assessed; incidence rates of alcohol-attributable diseases (AAD) serve as our measure of morbidity. Methods Monthly incidence rates of alcohol-attributable diseases were calculated with data from the National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD) from 1996 to 2011. These rates were then submitted to intervention analyses using Seasonal Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average models (ARIMA) with multivariate adaptive regression splines (MARS). ARIMA is well-suited to time series analysis while MARS helps fit the regression model to the cubic curvature form of the irregular AAD incidence rates of hospitalization (AIRH). Results Alcoholic liver disease, alcohol abuse and dependence syndrome, and alcohol psychoses were the most common AADs in Taiwan. Compared to women, men had a higher incidence of AADs and their AIRH were more responsive to changes in the laws governing permissible blood alcohol. The adoption of tougher blood alcohol content (BAC) laws had significant effects on AADs, controlling for overall consumption of alcoholic beverages. Conclusion Blood alcohol level laws and alcohol taxation effectively reduced alcohol-attributable morbidities with the exception of alcohol dependence and abuse, a disease to which middle-aged, lower income people are particularly susceptible. Attention should be focused on this cohort to protect this vulnerable population.
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