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Alcohol is a frequent contributing factor to motor vehicle collision injuries. Our objective was to determine the proportion of intoxicated drivers hospitalized following motor vehicle crashes who were subsequently convicted of an impaired driving criminal code offence.
We reviewed British Columbia Trauma Registry records from Jan. 1, 1992, to Mar. 31, 2000, and identified drivers of motor vehicles who were hospitalized for treatment of crash-related injuries. Patient identifiers were then used to link with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s (ICBC) contraventions database and the ICBC Traffic Accident System collisions database.
Of 6067 patients identified in the Trauma Registry, 4042 had not been administered a blood ethanol test, 209 had no driver’s licence match in the relevant databases and 119 died, leaving 1697 eligible patients. Mean age was 34 years, and 79.6% were male. The average Injury Severity Score was 20, the average hospital stay was 14 days and, among ethanol-positive patients, the mean ethanol level was 34.0 mmol/L (156.4 mg/dL). In patients with levels >17.3 mmol/L, the police had listed ethanol as a contributing factor in 70.6% of cases. Despite this, only 11.0% were convicted of impaired driving and 8.4% of another criminal offence; 10.7% received a 24-hour roadside prohibition, 3.9% received a 90-day administrative driving prohibition and 25.0% were convicted of a contravention of the Motor Vehicle Act. Forty-one percent were not convicted of any offence at all.
Intoxicated drivers in British Columbia requiring hospitalization as a result of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes are seldom convicted of impaired driving or other criminal code offences.
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