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Fatal accidents involving alcohol may be underreported

Drunk driving is an issue of major concern nationally, as well as in Illinois. A big part of addressing this problem is having an accurate understanding of its causes and impacts. Many states attempt to do this by collecting information on these topics. However, a recent study in Rutgers University’s Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs explains that fatal drunk driving accidents are greatly underreported. An Illinois car accident lawyer would note that the findings in this report may indicate that drunk driving played a greater role in state traffic fatalities than previously thought.

The study’s findings

The JSAD study is based on comparisons between states’ death certificates and data from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The study found that, on death certificates, alcohol is only listed as a contributing cause of death in about 3 percent of cases. This is incongruent with national data, which states that over 20 percent of these fatalities were suffered by those who were legally drunk at the time of their accidents.

The report notes that the discrepancies between death certificates and FARS data did not improve over the 10-year period (1999 to 2009) covered by its review. This indicates that underreporting on alcohol-related traffic accidents is a continuing issue for many states.

Implications for Illinois’ drunk driving statistics

An Illinois car accident lawyer may use information on the website of the Illinois Secretary of State, which provides state statistics on DUI fatalities. According to this website, in 2012 alone 393 people died in alcohol-related crashes, which amounted to 41 percent of the year’s total traffic fatalities.

As high as these numbers are, the recent JSAD study calls into question whether alcohol played an even greater role in the year’s overall traffic deaths. The unreliability of these statistics may indicate that there were serious problems regarding the assignment of fault in these crashes. In addition, without confidence in the accuracy of state-compiled data, it may be difficult for Illinois legislators and officials to analyze drunk driving policies. This may reduce these officials’ ability to gauge the effectiveness of policies meant to reduce drunk driving fatalities.

Victims’ families may want to investigate

The JSAD report may indicate that drunk driving is a more substantial problem in Illinois than previously believed. This could mean that intoxication was erroneously excluded in some traffic-related fatalities. Those who have lost family members in motor vehicle accidents and suspect that these crashes were caused by drunk drivers may wish to investigate the situation. Speaking with an Illinois car accident lawyer may help such individuals do this.

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