Research Shows Drunk Driving Deaths May Be Underestimated

Beer BottlesA recent study on the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs highlighted data that shows how deaths due to drunk driving have been underestimated. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the blood alcohol levels of those who die due to drunk driving or an alcohol-related traffic fatality are often left off of formal death certificates.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a Fatality Analysis Reporting System that tracks the blood alcohol levels of those individuals involved in traffic fatalities. From 1999 to 2009 the NHTSA registered 21 percent of traffic fatalities as due to people who had a blood alcohol level over .08, but those doing the study found that only 3 percent of death certificates during that time frame stated that the death was alcohol-related.

In the United States the abuse of alcohol has led to over 88,000 deaths, and it’s the third leading lifestyle cause of death in the entire nation. The data from this particular study is especially important because researchers have documented the number of alcohol-related deaths over the past 30 years, and the data shows how the number of people involved in these types of traffic fatalities has dropped by 50%. Without consistent data reporting of alcohol-related fatalities on death certificates, it can be difficult to continue accurately estimating the actual number of alcohol-related deaths.

The researchers also note that the data from death certificates varies from state to state, with states like Minnesota and Iowa seen as more likely to include alcohol-related data on the death certificate and states like New Jersey and Nevada less likely to include the information.

Excessive alcohol use can have many negative effects on an individual, and one of the most likely to occur are traffic injuries if that person chooses to get behind the wheel after drinking. Accurate reporting of traffic fatalities as due to alcohol could spread the message that an individual is highly likely to be involved in a crash or die if they drink and drive.