THE ROLE OF CARBON MONOXIDE, ALCOHOL AND DRUGS IN FATAL SINGLE CAR ACCIDENTS

THE PART PLAYED BY CERTAIN CHEMICAL AGENTS IN PRODUCING FATAL ACCIDENTS IS STUDIED. IT WAS SPECULATED THAT MUCH OF THE SEEMINGLY SELF-DESTRUCTED BEHAVIOR OF FATAL ACCIDENT DRIVERS MIGHT BE EXPLAINED BY NARCOSIS. BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF AN IMPLIED CONSENT LAW, IT IS VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO OBTAIN BREATH OR BLOOD SAMPLES FROM LIVING DRIVERS ON A SYSTEMATIC BASIS, HENCE, FATAL ACCIDENTS BECAME THE DOMAIN OF THE INVESTIGATION. SINGLE VEHICLE ACCIDENTS ARE THE ONLY TYPE IN WHICH RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE OUTCOME IN MOST CASES IS UNEQUIVOCALLY FIXED. THE SEARCH FOR CARBON MONOXIDE IMPOSED AN ADDITIONAL RESTRICTION-THE VICTIM MUST DIE INSTANTANEOUSLY OR WITHIN A VERY SHORT TIME AFTER THE IMPACT , OTHERWISE, THE ACT OF BREATHING WILL CLEAR THE CARBON MONOXIDE FROM HIS BLOOD. A TIME LIMIT OF FIFTEEN MINUTES WAS IMPOSED. OF 698 CASES SELECTED BY TRAFFIC OFFICERS IN THE FIELD DURING THE YEAR NOVEMBER 1963 THROUGH OCTOBER 1964, 380 WERE CONSIDERED AS VALID TESTED CASES, THE REMAINING BEING BEING EXCLUDED BECAUSE OF BAD BLOOD SAMPLES, BLOOD NOT SENT TO THE INVESTIGATING LABORATORY, DEATH RESULTING FROM NATURAL CAUSES AND VICTIMS WERE SHORT-TERMED CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS /NOT BEING COMPARABLE WITH PERMANENT CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS IN THAT THEY WOULD HAVE INCOMPLETE DRIVING AND CRIMINAL HISTORIES/. A SIZEABLE GROUP OF DRIVERS WAS FOUND TO HAVE SUCCUMBED TO ORGANIC FAILURES, ALMOST ENTIRELY HEART SEIZURES OF ONE TYPE OR ANOTHER. THIS SUB-SAMPLE, NUMBERING 63, IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE 380 EFFECTIVE SAMPLE CASES. INITIAL ANALYSIS INDICATES THE FOLLOWING' 1. CARBON MONOXIDE WAS FOUND TO BE OF NEGLIGIBLE IMPORTANCE. 2. DRUGS WERE DETECTED IN APPROXIMATELY TWELVE PERCENT OF THE CASES, BUT THE DETECTION PROCESS WAS NECESSARILY NON- EXHAUSTIVE. 3. SEVENTY-SIX PERCENT OF THE MALE VICTIMS HAD BEEN DRINKING, AND ABOUT SEVENTY PERCENT HAD BLOOD ALCOHOL CONCENTRATIONS IN EXCESS OF .10 PERCENT. 4. FIFTY-ONE PERCENT OF THE FEMALE DRIVERS HAD BEEN DRINKING, FORTY PERCENT HAD BLOOD ALCOHOL LEVEL OF .10 PERCENT OR MORE. 5. THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF ARRESTS FOR DRUNKENNESS AND ALCOHOLISM WERE FOUND TO INCREASE WITH THE ALCOHOL LEVEL INDICATING HABITUATION AND PROBLEM DRINKING. 6. THE ORGANIC FACTOR ELEMENT INCLUDED APPROXIMATELY 10 PERCENT OF THE CASES ORIGINALLY SELECTED IN THE FIELD. THIS GROUP CONSISTED OF MIDDLE-AGED OR ELDERLY MALES. 7. IT CAN BE GENERALLY STATED THAT BLOOD ALCOHOL CONCENTRATION IN EXCESS OF .0975 PERCENT PRODUCES MORE THAN NORMAL RISK OF FATAL CONSEQUENCES.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Hpr, B-1-6, 7, 13JUL65
  • Corporate Authors:

    Bureau of Public Roads /US

    400 7th Street, SW
    Washington, DC  USA  20590
  • Authors:
    • Penn, H S
  • Publication Date: 1965-7-20

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00219646
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: Bureau of Public Roads /US
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 1 1994 12:00AM