The Relationship Between Alcohol Related Medical Conditions and Road Crashes


There have been many interventions implemented around the world in an attempt to deter drink drivers. However, high risk offenders who repeatedly drink and drive are difficult to target. If high risk drivers could be identified prior to receiving convictions for drink driving, or prior to being involved in a crash, they could then be targeted for a brief road safety intervention. For example, such an opportunity would occur when a road user was in hospital receiving treatment for an alcohol-related problem.

The aim of this study was to measure the association between alcohol-related medical conditions and road crashes. This was achieved through a longitudinal analysis of the hospital records of people first admitted to hospital for an alcohol-related condition over the period 1980 to 1997 in Western Australia.

During this 18 year period there were 41,537 people admitted to hospital at least once for an alcohol-related medical condition. No details prior to 1980 were available somewhat limiting the ability to define the start of an alcohol career. About 11.7% of these people were also involved in a road crash requiring hospitalisation.

Those who were admitted only once for an alcohol-related condition were generally younger than those admitted more than once. Three quarters of those admitted to hospital were male, and while the majority of people resided in the Perth metropolitan area, a larger than expected proportion lived in the remote areas of Western Australia. Aboriginal people also appeared over represented.

The majority of people involved in a road crash resided in the metropolitan area, however, those living in the remote areas of Western Australia were over represented, as were Aboriginal people. While the majority of those who were admitted were motor vehicle drivers (23.7%), a large group were pedestrians (18.3%), and 9.1% were motorcyclists.

Only 23.6% of those admitted to hospital for road injuries had been admitted earlier for an alcohol-related medical condition. The remainder were either involved in a crash prior to being admitted to hospital for an alcohol condition, or were treated for an alcohol condition at the same time as being involved in a road crash.

It appears from these findings that since only about one quarter of crash admissions were preceded by an alcohol-related admission, an intervention aimed at reducing crashes which was applied in all alcohol-related admissions not associated with a crash would not be practical, as only about 2.5% of such admissions would potentially precede a crash. Such an intervention, however, might be made more specific by concentrating on males, those under 30 years of age, and Aboriginal people. An alternative approach would be to apply an alcohol-related intervention to all young males admitted for a crash. For almost half the crash cases, there was an alcohol-related admission at a later date. A cost effective intervention may be appropriate in these cases. Further research is required to explore the potential of these interventions.

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Type: Research and Analysis Report
Sub Type: Grant
Author(s): Ms Rina Cercarelli
Topics: Alcohol, Enforcement
Publication Date: 01/01/99