These findings, based on hospital trauma data, suggest different trends for the MVC and non-MVC injuries. The non-MVC injury data are supportive of availability theory, because an increase in injuries was found for the period during which the drinking hours were extended and no decreases were found for the other periods that would be supportive of the power-drinking hypothesis. The data for the MVC injuries, on the other hand, showed decreasing trends for 11 PM-12 AM and 1–2 AM periods, which are consistent with the results from the MVC police report fatality data (Vingilis et al., 2005
That both the MVC injury and non-MVC injury data sets showed different trends suggests that the lack of increased MVC fatalities in the Vingilis et al. (2005)
study commensurate with the extension of the drinking hours regulation may have been the result of the insensitivity of the MVC fatality data to detect changes. It is also possible that drinking-driving fatality and injury rates were changing in response to road safety initiatives, such as the Administrative Licence Suspension Law introduced in 1994 and a Graduated Licensing Law introduced at the end of 1996 (Boase and Tasca, 1998
; Mann et al., 2000
), which may have created a declining trend in the drinking-driving problem that masked the effects of a small increase in alcohol availability. Indeed, initial time series analyses of the MVC drinking-driving fatality data, which modeled in the Administrative Licence Suspension Law and the Graduated Licensing Law, did find an effect for the Administrative Licence Suspension Law but not the Graduated Licensing Law, possibly because the latter coincided too closely with the extended drinking hours policy change for a distinct statistical effect to be found.
A survey of licensed establishments, reported by Vingilis et al. (2005)
, suggested that some licensed establishments did not implement the extended drinking hours. Instead, the hours of closing were quite variable among licensed establishments across Ontario. Of the 17% of licensed establishments that were bars and taverns, about 45% remained open until 2 AM Sunday through Wednesday nights, two thirds reported remaining open until 2 AM on Thursday, and somewhat more than four fifths reported staying open until 2 AM on Friday and Saturday. Other types of licensed establishments, such as restaurants, were much less likely to stay open until 2 AM. This would suggest that alcohol availability might not have increased greatly despite the regulation change. However, a low response rate of licensed establishments to the survey limits the generalizability of these findings.
Yet Vingilis et al. (2006)
also found support for availability theory with evidence of increased alcohol-related casualties, based on police MVC reporting forms. They examined the impact of extended drinking hours on cross-border drinking of Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, MI, where the closing hours in Windsor became the same as in Detroit.
In Windsor, a region with a high licensed-establishment density, a significant increase was found in alcohol-related MVC casualties after the drinking hours were extended. However, the Detroit region showed a significant decrease in alcohol-related MVC casualties concomitant with Ontario’s drinking-hour extension. No similar trends were found for the province of Ontario and the state of Michigan as a whole. Moreover, a decreasing trend was found for MVC casualties involving vehicles with Ontario licence plates in the Detroit region, suggesting that persons from Windsor were less likely to cross the border for an extra hour of drinking when the drinking period was extended in Ontario.
The different patterns found for non-MVC and MVC injuries in the current study may reflect a Canadian attitude change that impaired driving has become unacceptable (Sauve, 1999
), and many patrons of licensed establishments may not be driving to licensed establishments. Yet heavy imbibing may still have consequences, such as assaults and other types of injuries.
Two recent newspaper and magazine articles from two Ontario cities provide some anecdotal evidence of potential differential impact of extended drinking hours on alcohol-related harms related to licensed establishments. Balkissoon (2007)
wrote in a cover story in a Toronto, Ontario, magazine:
The crowd stretches the length of Richmond Street from Peter to Simcoe, full of attitude and soaked in booze. It’s 2:30 a.m. and although the clubs are closing their doors nobody wants to go home…. A cabbie waits after his wobbly fare plops down on the pavement instead of in the back seat…. One group of partiers tries, unsuccessfully, to thread through another group holding court on Peter Street. Shoulders bump, slurred swear words are exchanged, there is some pushing, and suddenly a pile of boys are rolling around on the pavement, making mean faces and throwing punches…. On Saturdays at about 11 p.m., lines of yellow school buses pull into the club district from universities and colleges across the GTA [Greater Toronto Area]. Scores of private companies also provide group transportation. Vaughan-based Book Me Limo, for example, shuttles hundreds of partiers to clubland every weekend from Hamilton, Oakville and Mississauga…. But not everyone goes home the way they came…. In 2006, the police laid 448 people in the district with assault; 17 were additionally charged with aggravated assault--a beating causing serious bodily harm. (pp. 46–47)
He [Valente, owner of Eastside Bar and Grill] also shared the opinion of the downtown club owner that the main problem is not so much student drinking, but the extended bar hours which came into effect in 1996, changing closing time from 1:00 am to 2:00 am. “Having the province pushing bar hours back makes no sense,” said Valente. Closing time aside, behavioural problems associated with student drinking have long been a concern for local authorities…. [T]he downtown club owner told Scene, “I never had any fights (in my bar) until eight years ago” (p. 4).
These anecdotes point to a variety of alcohol-related harms that have been observed and suggest that it would be important to conduct further research on extended drinking hours to examine the impact on other harms, such as crime (e.g., assaults or impaired driving) and other indicators of neighborhood disruption.
That said, several recent studies have observed that small changes in availability may not always produce large or clear effects on consumption or problem measures (Antalova and Martinic, 2005
). Availability theory literature indicates that factors affecting aggregate alcohol consumption are strongly related to availability factors only when other conditions remain unchanged (Anatalova and Martinic, 2005; Room et al., 2002
; Skog, 1990
Availability factors are mediated by a host of other factors, such as prevailing drinking practices; the role of alcohol in a given society; and other cultural, political, and legal norms (Anatalova and Martinic, 2005). The findings of the different studies on the impact of extended drinking hours support a complex pattern of outcomes, whereby, in Ontario as a whole, there seems to be no perceived increase in alcohol-related, police-reported MVC casualties (Vingilis et al., 2005
) or hospital-reported MVC injuries, although in the high-alcohol-density area of Windsor, Ontario, increases were found in alcohol-related, police-reported MVC casualties (Vingilis et al., 2006
), and for Ontario as a whole, increases in non-MVC hospital-reported injuries were found for the period during which the drinking hour was extended. Thus, the change in policy, the limited implementation, and other societal factors such as economic conditions and road safety countermeasures may have mediated the effects of the extended drinking hours on MVC injuries but not on non-MVC injuries, such as falls and assaults, in Ontario.