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Drunk Driving Deaths Underreported

Kayla Rouser3 years ago

According to FOX News, a new study from the United States National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicates that alcohol related traffic deaths are still underreported.

About the Drunk Driving Study

“Alcohol misuse is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S and accounts for roughly 89,000 deaths annually and 49,500 of those are acute causes.” – Ralph Hingson of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as published by FOX News

Study author Ralph Hingson of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and his colleagues surmise that alcohol related fatalities are still being underreported on death certificates.

They compared information from death certificates to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1993 through 2003.

The researcher approached the data with an understanding that:

  • About 70% of drivers fatally injured in car accidents undergo blood alcohol testing and those results are logged into FARS.
  • Any person with a blood alcohol concentration over .08 is considered to be legally drunk.
  • Alcohol is often not listed as a cause of death on death certificates for a variety of reasons.

Findings of the Drunk Driving Study

After reviewing the data, 3% of death certificates in traffic fatalities listed alcohol as a contributing cause, and the data from FARS revealed that 21% of traffic fatalities were comprised of people who were legally drunk.

Overall, alcohol involvement was 81% less likely to be reported in death certificate than in FARS. Hingson also suspects that non-traffic alcohol related deaths are also underreported in the U.S. 

By gathering more accurate data on alcohol related deaths, Hingson and his colleague’s hope that lawmakers can one day make progress towards reducing those deaths.

2012 Sees Increase in Drunk Driving Fatalities
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recorded a 3.3 percent in the number of drunk driving deaths recorded in 2012 with a total of 33,561 deaths attributed to accidents involving impaired drivers.
  • The agency also noted that the vast majority of the increase, 72 percent, occurred during the first 3 months of the year and most involved motorcyclists and pedestrians.
  • Fatality rates for both pedestrians and motorcyclist increased for the third consecutive year – up 6.4 percent and 7.1 percent respectively from the year prior.


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