Thursday 20 July 2017

Alcohol factor in 60pc of pedestrian fatalities

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Nearly six in every 10 pedestrians who died in road crashes had alcohol in their system.

A nine-year review of deaths examined by the State Pathologist's Office revealed that 59pc of pedestrian road fatalities had been drinking.

This compared to 33pc of motorists and 14pc of car passengers who lost their lives over the same period. The study also found that intoxicated pedestrians are more likely to suffer severe trauma to the head, upper body, and abdomen than pedestrian accident victims who have not been drinking.

Doctors in Dublin's Beaumont Hospital who examined the files relating to 1,778 deaths between 2000 and 2009 found that the role played by alcohol in victims of fatal brain injury is underestimated by hospital staff.

"Alcohol-related illness, death or injury is one of the greatest public health issues in Ireland.

"In this study, 50pc of cases came to autopsy less than 12 hours after the incident and as blood alcohol testing is done as a routine, the true contribution of alcohol to unnatural deaths can be assessed.

"Alcohol clearly plays a significant role in fatal brain injury in the forensic setting . . . and excessive drinking increases the risk of dying unnaturally," the authors from the Department of Neuropathology in Beaumont Hospital said in the study, which is published in the 'Irish Medical Journal'.

Alcohol was also found in the bloodstreams of many victims of other tragedies, including suicides, assaults and falls.

The study found that alcohol was present in the blood of 36pc of people who died after an assault, 41pc of victims of falls and in 40pc of suicides.

Assaults were found to be the most common cause of brain injury in the study, and the authors found that the severity of violence used was related to the volume and type of alcohol consumed.

"In this study, we are dealing only with victims and the majority are male . . . blunt force was the commonest method used, supporting observations from other studies that victims of brain injury are usually males killed by acquaintances during a fight."

Causes

The next commonest causes of brain injury were falls, road traffic accidents and suicide.

Among suicides, gunshot wounds were the commonest cause of death among people in the study who took their own lives, accounting for 86pc of cases.

The suicide deaths studied were all men, most of whom were aged between 36 and 50 years. Older people who had died by suicide were found to be less likely to have previously attempted to take their own lives or have a "documented" psychiatric history.

A positive alcohol level was found in 40pc of all suicide deaths -- higher than that revealed by studies in the US, where alcohol was a factor in between 30 and 38pc of cases.

Irish Independent

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