We have all heard accounts of severe personal injury accidents in New Orleans involving drunk drivers. Such accidents tend to be viewed very seriously because they arise from preventable behavior and could have been avoided. While most people acknowledge the danger of drunk drivers, a recent study by demographers at the University of California, San Diego, has found that any amount of alcohol in a driver’s system increases not only the risk of an accident, but also its severity.
Members of the university’s sociology department analyzed data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database, which tracks every car accident in the U.S. involving at least one fatality. This data included accidents involving 1,495,667 people between 1994 and 2008. FARS data was used because it includes a measurement of the drivers’ blood-alcohol content measured in 0.01% increments and records accidents across the United States.
Because FARS only tracks fatal accidents, the researchers were unable to examine accidents of lesser severity. They were, however, able to determine a ratio of severe to non-severe injuries in the recorded accidents and compare this data with the drivers’ blood-alcohol content (BAC). The findings were then controlled for other accident related variables such as time of day, age of the driver and other factors.
The study found that when a driver had a BAC of just 0.01% – an amount that an average male could attain by drinking one beer over the course of two hours – the number of severe injuries was 37% higher than in accidents involving alcohol-free drivers. Crashes where a driver had a BAC of 0.01% resulted in 4.33 severe injuries for every minor injury, compared to 3.17 severe injuries for every minor injury when the drivers had no alcohol in their systems at all.
This increased severity was largely the result of the alcohol-consuming drivers being more likely to speed and less likely to wear a seat belt – increasing risk to themselves. The study also found that for every 0.01% that the driver’s BAC increased, the average speed of that driver’s vehicle and severity of crash injuries also increased.
If you have been injured in an auto accident and have any questions, we would be happy to help you. Please feel free to call us at 504-581-6411 or 855-GERTLER.