1986-02-24

Alcohol: A Potentiating Factor in Motor Vehicle Crash Injury 860184

Although alcohol is recognized as contributing to injury, it has been assumed that the relationship is attributable to alcohol's impairment of performance. Evidence is accumulating from animal studies that alcohol increases the extent of injury from any given trauma. Clinical studies have failed to confirm these findings, but there are important differences between the two bodies of research. Motor vehicle crashes afford an opportunity to examine the potentiating effects of alcohol on injury in circumstances analogous to the laboratory studies. Analyses of motor vehicle crash data show that when variables defining the severity of a crash are controlled, the drinking driver is roughly twice as likely to be seriously injured or killed compared to the nondrinking driver. Implications for alcohol education and clinical treatment of the trauma victim are discussed.

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