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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Successful Conviction of Intoxicated Drivers at a Level I Trauma Center


Introduction: Conviction rates for drivers driving under the influence (DUI) and in motor vehicle collisions (MVC) presenting to trauma centers are based primarily on data from the 1990s. Our goal was to identify DUI conviction rates of intoxicated drivers in MVCs presenting to a trauma center and to identify factors associated with the failure to obtain a DUI conviction.

Methods: Retrospective study of adults (>18 years) presenting to a trauma center emergency department (ED) in 2007. Eligible subjects were drivers involved in a MVC with an ED blood alcohol level (BAL) ≥ 80mg/dL. Subjects were matched to their Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records to identify DUI convictions from the collision, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and arresting officer’s impression of the driver’s sobriety.  We entered potential variables predictive of failure to obtain a DUI conviction into a regression model.

Results: The 241 included subjects had a mean age of 34.1 ± 12.8 years, and 185 (77%) were male.  Successful DUI convictions occurred in 142/241 (58.9%, 95% CI 52.4, 65.2%) subjects.  In a regression model, Injury Severity Score > 15 (odds ratio = 2.70 (95% CI 1.06, 6.85)) and a lower ED BAL from 80 to 200mg/dL (odds ratio = 5.03 (95% CI 1.69, 14.9) were independently associated with a failure to obtain a DUI conviction.

Conclusion: Slightly more than half of drivers who present to an ED after a MVC receive a DUI conviction.  The most severely injured subjects and those with lower BALs are least likely to be convicted of a DUI. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(4):480-485.]


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