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Half of all road death motorists had drunk alcohol

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More than half of motorists killed on Bermuda's roads in recent years had been drinking alcohol before they died, according to a new study.

And Government is renewing calls for drinkers to avoid driving after they have consumed alcohol, in a bid to reduce the number of road deaths.

The Department of Health conducted the study, which examined data relating to alcohol consumption and road traffic fatalities in the years 2010, 2012 and the first ten months of this year. Complete statistics for 2011 were not available.

In that time period, there were 30 road traffic fatalities, and blood samples taken from the victims showed that 17 of them had alcohol in their systems.

According to a Department of Health spokesman, most of the fatalities were the result of single vehicle accidents which took place late at night or in the early hours of the morning. The spokesman did not say if any of the fatalities were above the legal drink-drive limit when tested, but added that none of the victims of accidents which took place during the day tested positive for alcohol.

The study also looked at the role alcohol played in sudden deaths. Of the 32 recorded cases of sudden death in 2010, half of the fatalities tested positive for alcohol. In 2012, nine fatalities tested positive out of 43 cases.

The spokesman said: “The aim of this study was to determine if there is a correlation between blood alcohol levels in drivers of vehicles involved in road traffic accidents and fatalities and also to determine if there is some correlation between alcohol and morbidity rates.

“From the review of the data it can be seen that alcohol plays a major role in RTFs. This study suggests that chronic alcohol abuse is associated with an increased risk of sudden death. Frequently listed pathology findings include heart disease, fatty liver (ethanol cirrhosis) and heart failure. These findings are all well documented in literature in connection with cases of prolonged or excessive alcohol consumption.”

Yesterday Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin urged motorists to “think twice” before driving after having a drink.

“This study further highlights the adverse impact of alcohol on, not only individuals and their families, but also on our society and economy,” the Minister said.

“The Ministry of Health and Seniors wants Bermuda residents to think twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking; or into a vehicle where the driver has consumed alcohol, especially leading up to and during the holiday season.

“DUI and excessive or frequent alcohol consumption is making a significant adverse impact on families and in communities. The data speaks for itself.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr Cheryl Peek-Ball said she supported the research and the importance of bringing to light the significant role that alcohol plays in Bermuda in sudden death, injury and chronic disease.

“This study allows us to acknowledge the social and health impact of alcohol and provides evidence to challenge the common perception that this legal, socially accepted drug is harmless,” she said.

“Consequences of irresponsible or excessive use are clearly very significant and should not be ignored.”

The Department for National Drug Control also commented on the study, claiming that alcohol had become “ingrained in the social fabric” of Bermuda.

“Alcohol is the most commonly used substance among Bermuda's residents,” a spokesman for the organisation said.

“Its use and misuse are widely documented in local research among youths, college-age students, and the adult population. For many residents, alcohol has become ingrained in the social fabric. The environment in Bermuda is such that alcohol is easily accessible, affordable, and readily available to all residents; even those yet to reach the legal age of consumption — 18 years.

“The DNDC advocates for responsible alcohol behaviour and advises that if you do not currently drink alcohol, don't start. If you do consume alcohol, do so responsibly.”

Photo by Mark Tatem More than half of motorists killed in road accidents in recent years had consumed alcohol, a study has revealed.

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Published November 23, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated November 22, 2013 at 11:13 pm)

Half of all road death motorists had drunk alcohol

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