Study: Fatal accidents do not always include a blood-alcohol test
States record drivers’ blood alcohol content inconsistently
State laws vary when it comes to testing drivers involved in fatal crashes. In 2010, only 49 percent had blood-alcohol test results recorded in FARS. Illinois is one of 26 states that require testing for both surviving and killed drivers involved in fatal crashes. Nine states test only drivers who are killed, 11 test only survivors, and five do not require tests on the blood alcohol content of drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents.
Not every state that mandates tests reports the results consistently on the death certificates, and some reported results more often even though the tests are not required. For example, Kansas is one of the five that do not call for testing, but it is one of the top four when it comes to reporting the crash occurrences where alcohol plays a role.
Researchers speculate that part of the problem rests with the length of time that it takes for coroners and medical examiners to receive toxicology reports. Death certificates must be filed within three to five days, and the results can take much longer. Unfortunately, the study does not identify the reason that some states are better at recording the information on the death certificates, but further studies may make the successes clearer.
Policies on alcohol-related issues are not fully informed
One of the primary reasons this study is important is so that data about drinking and driving can be assessed accurately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list injuries as the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 45, but there is no way to determine the number affected by alcohol. The effects of alcohol on other types of fatal accidents, such as falls, are also unable to be accurately factored. Lawmakers cannot correctly measure how big the problem is, whether the current policies are affecting alcohol-related traffic fatalities, or whether changes should be made.