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Impaired driving charges in injured impaired drivers requiring treatment in an emergency department

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2015

Warren Fieldus*
Department of Emergency Medicine, QEII Health Sciences Centre, Halifax, NS
Department of Emergency Medicine, QEII Health Sciences Centre, HI 355, 1796 Summer Street, Halifax, NS B3H 3A7;


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To determine the percentage of injured impaired drivers brought to the only trauma centre in Nova Scotia who were charged with impaired driving.


This retrospective observational study identified alcohol impaired drivers involved in a motor vehicle crash (MVC) brought to the emergency department (ED). Patients were selected based on blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) found to be above the legal limit. Medical records were examined to determine if the patient was the driver in an MVC. Patient records were then cross-referenced with a police database to determine the percentage of injured impaired drivers who were charged with impaired driving.


Between April 1, 2006, and April 1, 2008, 1,102 patients brought to the QEII Health Sciences Centre (QEII HSC) ED were found to have BACs over the legal limit. Of these patients, only 57 (5.2%) were found to have been the driver in an MVC. The majority of patients were male (49; 86%), with an average age of 32 years. Most injuries (51; 89.5%) were the result of a single-vehicle crash. The mean Glasgow Coma Scale score was 12.6, and the mean Injury Severity Score was 14.4. Cross-referencing with police records showed that only 22.8% (13 of 57) of injured drivers were charged with impaired driving. Those drivers not charged with impaired driving had a significantly lower median BAC and median age.


During the study, the majority of alcoholimpaired drivers injured in an MVC who were brought to the QEII HSC ED for assessment of their injuries were not charged with impaired driving.

Original Research • Recherche originale
Copyright © Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians 2012



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