Nav: Home

Sobering new data on drinking and driving: 15% of US alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities involve alcohol under the legal limit

March 16, 2020

Ann Arbor, March 16, 2020 - A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, found that motor vehicle crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) below the legal limit of 0.08 percent accounted for 15 percent of alcohol-involved crash deaths in the United States. Of these deaths, 55 percent of fatalities were individuals other than the drinking driver, and these crashes were more likely to result in youth fatalities compared with crashes above the legal BAC limit.

Alcohol-involved motor vehicle accidents remain a leading cause of injury-related death in the US. Most research on crashes and alcohol focuses on alcohol above the legal limit of 0.08 percent, but cognitive impairment can begin at BACs as low as 0.03 percent. The National Transportation Safety Board and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have recommended reducing the legal blood alcohol concentration limit from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent. In 2018, Utah became the first state to do so. Other countries have adopted this limit already and have seen decreases in motor vehicle crashes.

"Our study challenges the popular misconception that alcohol-involved crashes primarily affect drinking drivers, or that BACs below the legal limit don't matter," explained lead investigator Timothy S. Naimi, MD, MPH, Section of General Internal Medicine, Boston Medical Center, and Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.

The study analyzed sixteen years of US motor vehicle crash data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System with the Alcohol Policy Scale, a measure of state alcohol policies. From 2000 to 2015, 37 percent of more than 600,00 motor vehicle deaths occurred in crashes involving at least one driver with a positive BAC. Of these, 15 percent were from crashes involving drivers testing below the legal alcohol limit.

The results of this study also showed that more restrictive alcohol policies were associated with a 9 percent decrease in the odds that a crash involved alcohol at levels below the legal limit. This relationship was consistent for multiple subgroups (e.g., men only, women only) and at a blood alcohol cutoff of 0.05 percent.

"Lower alcohol crashes have been underestimated as a public health problem. Our research suggests that stringent alcohol policies reduce the likelihood of fatal accidents involving drivers with all levels of alcohol blood concentration," noted Dr. Naimi. The study identified a number of policy approaches that could lead to a decrease in crash deaths involving alcohol at all levels, including increased alcohol taxes, required keg registration, and limited alcohol availability in grocery stores.

"Policies restricting impaired driving increase freedom from worry of injury or death for the majority of people on public roadways who are not drinking," observed lead author Marlene Lira, Section of General Internal Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.
-end-


Elsevier

Related Public Health Articles:

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.
BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.
The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.
Bloomberg American Health Initiative releases special public health reports supplement
With US life expectancy now on the decline for two consecutive years, the Bloomberg American Health Initiative is releasing a supplement to Public Health Reports, the scholarly journal of the US Surgeon General.
Data does the heavy lifting: Encouraging new public health approaches to promote the health benefits of muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE)
According to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, almost 75 percent of US adults do not comply with public health guidelines recommending two or more muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE) sessions a week, with nearly 60 percent of the population doing no MSE at all.
The Lancet Public Health: Moderate carbohydrate intake may be best for health
Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with proteins and fats from plant sources associated with lower risk of mortality compared to those that replace carbohydrates with proteins and fat from animal sources.
Mass. public safety, public health agencies collaborate to address the opioid epidemic
A new study shows that public health and public safety agencies established local, collaborative programs in Massachusetts to connect overdose survivors and their personal networks with addiction treatment, harm reduction, and other community support services following a non-fatal overdose.
More Public Health News and Public Health Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.