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Reprint of “Surrogate Measures of Alcohol Involvement in Fatal Crashes: Are Conventional Indicators Adequate?”

Journal of Safety Research
DOI: 10.1016/j.jsr.2013.07.016
  • Law


Abstract The problem of alcohol-related highway fatalities has led a majority of states to enact new legislative countermeasures. Because few states consistently collect information on alcohol involvement in fatal crashes, the evaluation of the effectiveness of these countermeasures has relied on surrogate measures of alcohol involvement. Using data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS), this study addresses the following questions: (a) Which of the several surrogate measures used are most likely to reflect alcohol involvement in fatal crashes? and (b) Do the trends in these surrogate measures provide an accurate appraisal of the true trends in alcohol-involved fatal crashes? The authors conclude that nighttime fatal crashes are the best surrogate measure of alcohol-involved crashes, but that surrogate measures may not accurately mirror trends in alcohol-involved fatal crashes over time, particularly in small states or over short durations. All drivers in fatal crashes should be given blood alcohol level (BAL) tests to most accurately assess the effects of drunk driving countermeasures.

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