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Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2018 Mar;14(1):4-17. doi: 10.1007/s12024-017-9934-x. Epub 2017 Nov 28.

The significance of preexisting medical conditions, alcohol/drug use and suicidal behavior for drivers in fatal motor vehicle crashes: a retrospective autopsy study.

Author information

1
Department of Forensic Sciences, Section of Pediatric Forensic Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, P.O. Box 4950 Nydalen, 0424, Oslo, Norway. jabree@ous-hf.no.
2
Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1171 Blindern, 0318, Oslo, Norway. jabree@ous-hf.no.
3
Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1171 Blindern, 0318, Oslo, Norway.
4
Department of Traumatology, Oslo University Hospital, P.O. 4956 Nydalen, 0424, Oslo, Norway.
5
Department of Forensic Sciences, Section of Drug Abuse Research, Oslo University Hospital, P.O. Box 4950 Nydalen, 0424, Oslo, Norway.
6
Department of Forensic Sciences, Section of Pediatric Forensic Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, P.O. Box 4950 Nydalen, 0424, Oslo, Norway.

Abstract

Driver fatalities in motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) encompass accidents, suicides, and natural deaths when driving. The objective of this study was to determine the significance of pathology and other autopsy findings for drivers in fatal MVCs. Forensic autopsy records of driver fatalities in southeast Norway between 2000 and 2014 were studied retrospectively. Data from individual police and collision investigation reports were also collected and analyzed. In 406 driver fatalities, the male/female ratio was 340/66; 9% died from natural causes, 9% were suicides, 65% were culpable accidental deaths, 14% were nonculpable deaths, and 3% were undetermined deaths. Head injuries and thoracic injuries were the most common causes of death. A seatbelt had been worn in 50% of the fatalities, and its prevalence did not differ between accidental deaths and suicides. Blood levels of alcohol and/or drugs that indicated impairment at the time of the collision were found in 40% (105/262) of all culpable accidental deaths but in 50% (64/127) of drivers aged up to 35 years. Pathology (most often cardiovascular disease) suggestive of sudden incapacitation before the collision was present in 24% (62/264) of drivers who were culpable in the accident and in 70% (46/66) of culpable drivers older than 55 years. A substantial proportion of drivers are killed in accidental collisions that may have occurred as a result of either alcohol/drug impairment or preexisting disease. Suicides and natural deaths both constitute significant proportions of MVC fatalities and may be misclassified unless a full inquest including an autopsy is performed.

KEYWORDS:

Autopsy; Driver-related deaths; Forensic pathology; Medical incapacitation when driving; Motor vehicle collisions; Toxicology

PMID:
29185214
DOI:
10.1007/s12024-017-9934-x
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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