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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Alcohol Related Traffic Deaths Under-Reported

Drunk Driving Among US College Students Still ...
Traffic deaths make up significant number of deaths every year in the United States; it comes as no surprise that a large portion of those fatalities are related to alcohol. However, a new study has found that alcohol related traffic deaths are severely under-reported according to death certificates.

In the ten year period, from 1999 to 2009, researchers concluded that just over 3 percent of the 450,000 traffic related fatalities cited alcohol as a contributing factor on the death certificate. In fact, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) showed that 21 percent of those deaths actually involved legally drunk individuals, according to MedicalXpress.

Researchers believe the lack of reporting may have to do with impatience, medical examiners and coroners don’t feel like waiting for blood-alcohol reports to come back from the lab. In most places death certificates are required to be filled out within three to five days of the death, but toxicology reports usually take much longer.

States that rarely reported alcohol related factors on death certificates are:
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
A researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Ralph Hingson, believes that it is important to have an understanding of alcohol's role in the death of young people. Without proper reporting it is impossible for researchers to study the effects of alcohol related policies designed to reduce deaths, says Hingson. “You want to know how big the problem is, and if we can track it,” Hingson said in a news release. “Is it going up, or going down? And what policy measures are working?”  

The findings are published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
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