The availability of beer, wine, and spirits in grocery stores varies across the United States due to state-level regulations. Recently there have been a number of controversial legislative proposals to expand the distribution of certain alcoholic beverages, notably wine. Here we estimate how grocery store alcohol availability affects the prices and consumption of different types of alcohol. Then, changes in total alcohol consumption and the relative shares of beer, wine, and spirits are linked to traffic fatalities. While states with higher levels of total alcohol consumption have higher traffic fatality rates, econometric results show that the type of alcoholic beverage consumed is also relevant. Holding constant the total quantity of alcohol consumed, a higher share of wine correlates with lower traffic fatality rates, while the opposite is true for beer. Spirits are more strongly associated to traffic fatalities than wine, but less than beer. These findings suggest that the ethanol alcohol content in beverages is not a good indicator of its relative impact on traffic fatalities, and arguments against the wider distribution of wine as a way to reduce social problems may not be fully justified.
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