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College Students and Drinking Alcohol Statistics

The statistics are alarming! Up to eighteen hundred college students die annually from Alcohol-related reasons.

This frequently-repeated assertion is usually related to spree drinking. However, a critical examination of this claim shows that majority (up to 75%) of the deaths are linked to auto accidents as ‘Alcohol-linked injury casualties’, where alcohol is implicated as a cause. Thus, several college students don’t just die from spree drinking, but more from being involved in accidents while driving drunk or while someone else is drunk. Also, according to a review by the Washington Post on these statistics, not all the casualties may indeed be college students.

Where the figures begin

The amount of alcohol-linked accidental injury deaths- precisely 1,825- emanates from a third account on these losses in 2005. This account was directed and supervised by Ralph Hingson, director of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention Research of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The principal account actually gave the figure of such casualties to be around 1,442 as at 1998; and it later increased to 1,647 in year 2001. According to Hingson, a fourth account is projected to be released this year, and it is expected that it will indicate a reduction in spree drinking, and also DUIs amid students of college age. He also adds, that the 1,825 number (of college) stems from a conventional evaluation that around 33% of the 5,461 alcohol-linked deaths averaged yearly from 2006 to the year 2010 for individuals between the ages of 18 to 24 years were in college.

Flawed numbers

The source of the number is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, according to the Post, in the evaluation of the figures, no deaths are directly related to spree drinking. One challenge, as per the Post is that, the 1,800 figure is only an evaluation of the amount of young individuals that are students of college. As such, there is no information in the records of accidents regarding if someone is a student of a college; and so investigators evaluated what they assumed would be students of college.

The growing amount of college students that die while being intoxicated by alcohol may be due to the fact that more young people are now enlisting to college- from around 30% in 1998 to around 33% in the year 2005.

Alcohol deaths in vehicles exaggerated?

Approximately 75% of the 1825 casualties are linked to auto accidents. The remaining are linked to fire outbreaks, drowning, and other non-traffic tragedies which also are related with alcohol abuse. Also, the information derived from the 1,825 casualties amid college students doesn’t necessarily connote that the accidents were all caused by consumption of alcohol. According to the National Highway Traffic Society Management, ever since the year 2003 to say the least, an auto accident is only deliberated to be alcohol-linked if one driver or bystander affected in the accident has any significant quantity of alcohol found in them.

The NHTSA in a publication, stated that “the term ‘alcohol-linked’ does not necessarily say that an accident or crash was triggered by the use of alcohol”. As such, if a drunk by-stander was hit by a clear-headed vehicle driver, such casualty will also be considered as being ‘alcohol-linked’. Even in cases where the crash and death(s) were not caused by alcohol, the case is still branded as an ‘alcohol-related’ occurrence, if any of those involved in the crash were found to have taken in any volume of alcohol. Now, Hingson, who was not initially privy to the warning from the NHTSA regarding accident information, admits that indeed, alcohol is not the only factor that triggers these accidents. According to him, “you cannot always conclude that alcohol is the cause of all traffic deaths. Over-speeding, refusal to use a seatbelt, running red lights, and etcetera could also qualify as causes”.

He adds, that the amount of drinking-related deaths among college students may have been under-estimated. This is because his own team of researchers did not take account of homicidal murders and suicides; and according to him, these may also be linked with alcohol. Speaking of the 1,825 number, he stated, “these are only estimates”.

Better reportage of Alcohol losses

Hingson states that there are quite a number of things that could potentially enhance the work of evaluating the number of college students that lose their lives to alcohol abuse. One of them is that ‘college identifiers’ should be introduced. With this in place, if there is a fatal accident, one can easily ascertain if the person who died is a college student or not. A second measure is the difference between states, with regard to under-recounting the involvement of alcohol on death certificates. In a separate NIH publication that Hingson also partook of, car crash casualties that involved alcohol were found to have been under-reported. Due to inadequate training of procedures in death certification and to avoid upsetting relatives of the deceased, the coroner or medical personnel involved might not have included alcohol as a deadly factor on a death certificate.

In the year 2012, the NHTSA stated that alcohol-linked car deaths are not sufficiently reported, and alcohol testing for drivers that survive is considerably lower. In an investigation on Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), examining and accounting for drivers involved in fatal accidents from the year 1997 up to 2009, it was discovered by the NHTSA that in 2009, BACs were implicated in up to 71% of critically wounded drivers, and only around 27% of drivers that survived. A factor that brought about the low examination was that up to 22 states did not have a law mandating it and so stayed with probable cause; while about 25 different states had laws that mandated tests in the event of a fatal crash. The basis for a law enforcement agent to ask for BAC testing is if the officer has substantial evidence or inclination to suggest that the driver was violating the impaired driving law of the state. As at 2009, states that had laws mandating BAC testing had between 13 and 15% higher testing rates, compared to states with no such laws.

From the year 1999 up to 2009, it was observed that death certificates implicated alcohol in about 3.3% of all traffic-oriented deaths. Also, according to the Federal Fatality Analysis of Reported System (FARS), alcohol was involved in over 20% of fatal crashes.

In order to examine as many car drivers as humanly possible, the NHTSA advises the endorsement of a law mandating the testing of all drivers involved in fatal crashes; and it also pushes for the eradication of all laws that need a probable cause, so that a surviving driver to undergo the test. The report also advises that all medical personnel must examine all critically-wounded drivers if possible, and that the surviving drivers must be tested by law enforcement agents.

In addition, if the drivers pass away after being admitted to the hospital, medical personnel can utilize the previous hospital records of BAC tests. Kits for carrying out these tests must be made available, and the state would be required to foot the bills for carrying out the tests.

Reporting would be made a lot easier by instituting routine reporting. This will include forms for e-reporting, as well as tracking of all casualties, so as to update on the missing BACs.

The most effective method of getting the most accurate figures will be to collate the right, complete statistics. This will also help one to get a better comprehension of situations where college-age individuals are killed by alcohol-related causes.

Well, until that time, that 1,800 figure that is always being displayed as the figure for spree drinking deaths amid students of college may quite deter themselves and their parents in certain aspects, but maybe not when they are behind the steering.

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