Trauma Related To Motor Vehicles

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death from injury—and the greatest single cause of all deaths for those between the ages of one and thirty-four in the United States. It has been estimated that 7 percent of all crashes and 44 percent of fatal crashes involve alcohol use, and alcohol's involvement is greater for drivers in single-vehicle nighttime fatal crashes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1997). The risk of a fatal crash is estimated to be from three to fifteen times higher for a drunk driver (one with a BAL of at least .10 to 100 milligrams of alcohol for each 100 milliliters of blood—the legal limit in most U.S. states) than for a nondrinking driver, according to Roizen (1982). Alcohol is more frequently present in fatal than in nonfatal crashes. It is estimated that about 25 to 35 percent of those drivers requiring ER care for injuries resulting from such crashes have a BAL of .10 or greater. The number of alcohol-related crashes has declined in recent years, particularly among younger and older drivers, but has increased among women.

Motorcyclists are at a greater risk of death than automobile occupants, and it has been estimated that up to 50 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists have a BAL of at least .10. Pedestrians killed or injured by motor vehicles have also been found more likely to have been drinking than those not involved in such accidents. Estimates of 31 to 44 percent of fatally injured pedestrians were drinking at the time of the accident. According to Giesbrecht et al. (1989), 14 percent of fatal pedestrian accidents involved an intoxicated driver, but 24 percent involved an intoxicated pedestrian.

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