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Drunk driving dangers are worse than reported

Virtually all residents of New York City agree that government paperwork and red tape are annoyances we all must live with to one degree or another. Sometimes, however, the bureaucratic maze causes real harm, whether intentional or not.

A new study reveals that alcohol plays a much greater factor in car accident fatalities than previously believed. Researchers determined that just 3 percent of traffic fatality death certificates listed alcohol as a factor, while government data shows that the true figure might be seven times higher.

The study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs looked at death certificate data collected from 1999 to 2009. The 3 percent figure reflected in that data stands in stark contrast to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which reveals that 21 percent of the people who died in car accidents were legally drunk at the time.

The authors of the study say the enormous discrepancy between the two figures is possibly due to the time that expires between a crash and the receipt by officials of blood alcohol tests. Sometimes a week goes by. Sometimes more.

The problem is that “death certificates are usually issued within four days of a death,” notes an article on the new study.

So alcohol’s contributing factor to the fatality isn’t known to the coroner until days after the certificate has been filed.

In some fatality cases, drivers aren’t even tested for blood alcohol levels, so again alcohol isn’t listed as a contributing factor in the fatal crash.

The underreporting of alcohol’s role in deadly accidents serves to give people a false impression that drinking and driving isn’t as dangerous as it’s made out to be, which leads to more grief for more families who lose loved ones.

While experienced wrongful death case attorneys can help those families pursue compensation for their losses, nothing can be done to bring their loved ones back. 

Source: ThinkProgress.org, "The Surprising Issue That May Be Holding Back Effective Drunk Driving Laws," Sy Mukherjee, March 24, 2014

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