When it comes to researching how the legal drinking age affects health and safety, it's handy to have an American on the team.
US-based Dr Jason Lindo has flown in to assist University of Wollongong researchers Associate Professor Peter Siminski and Dr Oleg Yerokhin in their research into issues around legal access to alcohol in Australia.
Dr Lindo, of the University of Oregon, said that his experience and research in the US - where the legal drinking age is 21 - adds to the study being done at UOW.
"A lot of work has been conducted on this topic in the United States but very little has been done elsewhere," he said.
"Moreover, the Australian context is particularly interesting because its policies are quite different - the minimum legal drinking age is 18 rather than 21 and drink driving is treated more seriously.
"For instance, the number of random breath tests [RBT] far outweighs what occurs in the US - in fact 11 [US] states have found RBT to be illegal."
Prof Siminski said while the research was ongoing, there had been several important findings so far.
"Our research is looking at the effects of legal alcohol access - in particular we are looking at how drinking behaviours and health outcomes differ once people turn 18," he said.
"What we have found so far is that there are very clear and strong effects on people's drinking behaviours once they reach legal age - their alcohol consumption increases quite prominently and so does binge drinking."
However, the study had found no correlation between the legal drinking age and an increased prevalence of car accidents - in contrast to the US experience.
"In America, the legal drinking age is on the agenda but one of the main arguments against lowering it to 18 is that motor vehicle accidents and fatalities increase markedly when residents there turn 21," Prof Siminski said.
"However, our study, using NSW data, shows no evidence that motor vehicle accidents become more common when residents turn 18.
"We believe this is due to a combination of factors - a higher level of RBT, our graduated licensing system and public anti drink-driving campaigns."
The UOW study will now focus on alcohol-related hospitalisations.
Dr Lindo said US studies showed hospitalisations increased when people got legal access to alcohol, and they were also more likely to commit suicide.