Study Shows Car Accident Deaths Caused by Alcohol Use are Underreported
A new study from the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicates that car accident deaths caused by drunk drivers are underreported on death certificates.
“Alcohol misuse is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, it accounts for 89,000 deaths annually and of those, 49,500 are acute causes – they are injuries or poisonings….,” said study author Ralph Hingson, of the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “The one area we’ve made enormous progress in over the last 30 years is reducing alcohol involvement in traffic deaths and alcohol-related traffic deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S. have been more than cut in half.”
The researchers compared information on death certificates to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) between 1993 and 2003. They found that, nationally, 70% of drivers in car accident death cases undergo blood alcohol testing, and those results are logged into FARS. A driver is considered drunk if their blood alcohol level is 0.08 or above.
Although this information is logged with the NHTSA, drunk driving is not often listed as the cause of the car accident death on death certificates. The study found a variety of reasons for the discrepancy, including state laws, which may not require BAC testing for deceased drivers, or the death certificate may need to be issued before BAC results come back.
“The physicians on the other hand, who fill out death certificate, they’ll put down whether it was a heart attack, suicide, cancer, whatever, even though alcohol was a major contributor,” Hingson said.
Researchers concluded that just over 3% of death certificates issued for car accident deaths listed alcohol as a contributing cause, while FARS data revealed that 21% of car accident deaths involve alcohol in some way.
“What we hope we would do is draw attention to this issue and have states work on developing the types of medical examiner systems and policies that would create more comprehensive testing so we could get a better picture of [what the] magnitude and trends of these problems are,” Hingson said.
Higson hopes that accurate information in car accident deaths, especially those with alcohol as a factor, can help policy makers and advocate groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “What we want to do is take advantage of that knowledge and monitor more accurately where we’re doing,” he said. “Are things getting better? Are things getting worse? And what kinds of programs and policies will be most effective?”
The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Car Accident Death and Injury Cases
Although many of the people we represent in these cases are from right here in South Carolina, our lawyers routinely take clients from throughout the Southeastern U.S. and, in certain types of product liability or pharmaceutical cases, from across the country as well. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed through no fault of your own, whether from a defective product or in a car accident, you may have a wrongful death case. Contact the South Carolina wrongful death attorneys at the Strom Law Firm, LLC today for a free, no-cost consultation today. 803.252.4800