Drinking histories of fatally injured drivers
- 1Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Baltimore, Maryland
- 2Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Arlington, Virginia
- 3Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Injury Research and Policy, and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
- Correspondence to: Susan P Baker, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Injury Research and Policy, 624 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA;
Context: About 30% of drivers killed in crashes have high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of 0.10+ g/dl. There is a question about whether these drivers primarily are problem drinkers who chronically drink and drive—the so-called hard core drinking drivers.
Objective: To investigate drinking histories of fatally injured drivers in relation to their BACs.
Design and participants: Retrospective cohort study of 818 fatally injured drivers who were included in the 1993 National Mortality Followback Survey (a national sample of US deaths in which next of kin were interviewed) and whose BACs were recorded by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a census of US traffic deaths.
Main outcome measure: Problem drinking indicators.
Results: At least one indicator of potential problem drinking, primarily heavy drinking, was reported for 68% of drivers with very high BACs (0.15+ g/dl), 41% with BACs of 0.10–0.14 g/dl, 32% with BACs of 0.01–0.09 g/dl, and 7% with zero BACs. Spouses provided more credible responses than other relatives: they were more likely to report at least occasional drinking and driving among deceased drivers with high BACs. For the most direct signs of problem drinking (described as a problem drinker during the last month of life or frequently driving after having five or more drinks), spousal reports suggested the prevalence of problem drinking among drivers with very high BACs was 22% (having both indicators), 32% (frequently driving after having five or more drinks), 44% (described as problem drinker), or 57% (having either indicator).
Conclusions: Drivers with BACs of 0.10+ g/dl were far more likely than sober drivers to be described as having markers of problem drinking. However, many did not have indicators suggestive of problem drinking. In addition to programs focused on repeat offenders or problem drinkers, countermeasures such as sobriety checkpoints that target a broader spectrum of drinking drivers are appropriate.
- alcohol impaired driving
- motor vehicle crash
- problem drinking
- traffic death
- BAC, blood alcohol concentration
- FARS, Fatality Analysis Reporting System
- NMFS, National Mortality Followback Survey