Legal Prosecution of Alcohol-Impaired Drivers Admitted to a Level I Trauma Center in Rhode Island

Walter L. Biffl, Joshua D. Schiffman, David T. Harrington, John Sullivan, Thomas Tracy, William G. Cioffi, Larry M. Gentillilo, Samir M. Fakhry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Despite harsh legislation, driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) is exceedingly common, and alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) account for significant morbidity, mortality, and economic loss. Legal sanctions can keep offenders off the road (protecting other drivers and pedestrians) and ensure compliance with treatment programs (reducing recidivism). However, even with clear evidence of a transgression, the law seems to be inconsistently enforced among trauma patients. The purpose of this study was to measure the rate of legal prosecution among impaired drivers admitted to a trauma center after MVCs, and to determine the recidivism rate among these individuals. METHODS: Our trauma registry was queried to identify intoxicated drivers admitted during an 18-month period. Court records identified patients who had been charged with traffic offenses, including prior (2 years) and subsequent (1 year) charges. RESULTS: Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was measured in 387 (74%) of 525 drivers, of whom 137 (35%) had BAC ≥100 mg/dL. Of 113 state residents, 22 (19%) were charged with an offense related to the MVC. Of 12 charged with DUI, 10 were convicted, for an overall DUI conviction rate of just 9%. Seven (32%) of those who were charged had prior or subsequent charges. Of 91 patients not charged for the index event, 31 (34%) had prior or subsequent charges. CONCLUSION: Alcohol is involved in a large percentage of MVCs in our region. The infrequency of prosecution for DUI despite property damage and/or personal injury, and the high recidivism rate, are significant social concerns. These data suggest the need for processes to facilitate legal prosecution-possibly including revision of legislation involving reporting of BACs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-29
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Volume56
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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