More Than Half of All Alcohol-Related Severe Injuries Due to Motor Vehicle Collisions

June 22, 2005-New data released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) show that motor vehicle collisions were responsible for more than half (783) of the alcohol-related severe trauma hospitalizations in Canada in 2002�2003, representing a 9% increase over three years. Eight provinces reported 1,500 severe trauma hospitalizations due to alcohol (comparable data for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the territories were not available). Falls represented 21% of alcohol-related hospitalizations for severe trauma, while assaults and homicides represented 18%. Overall alcohol-related severe trauma hospitalizations increased 12% since 2000�2001, the first year for which data were available, with the largest increase reported among those aged 45 to 54 (28%).

Youth and Alcohol-Related Injuries

Youth between the ages of 10 and 24 represented the highest proportion (27%) of people admitted to a specialized trauma hospital in 2002�2003 due to alcohol-related injuries, followed by those 25 to 29 years old (22%). Over 30% of alcohol-related motor vehicle collisions involved Canadians under the age of 25. The number of youth (those under the age of 25) injured in alcohol-related motor vehicle collisions rose from 237 in 2000�2001 to 267 in 2001�2002, but declined to 250 in 2002�2003. For provinces with a legal drinking age of 19, the rate for alcohol-related major injury among youth aged 18 was 9 per 100,000 and remained virtually steady over the three-year period. In contrast, provinces with a drinking age of 18 showed a rate of major injury in this group that increased steadily from 11 per 100,000 population during the first year of the study to a rate of over 15 per 100,000 in 2002�2003.

Most of the collisions resulting in major trauma related to drinking and driving among youth occurred on weekends (77%) and at night (72%), and the most likely month for those between the ages of 10 and 24 to sustain severe injuries in an alcohol-related motor vehicle collision was June. �For young people, the beginning of the summer is known for celebrations surrounding graduation, such as attending the prom. This should be a time when young Canadians mark their accomplishments; unfortunately, the data indicate that this can also be a very dangerous time of year,� says Margaret Keresteci, Manager of Clinical Registries at CIHI.

According to Statistics Canada, 9% of 16 and 17 year-olds, 18% of 18 and 19 year-olds and 16% of 20 to 24 year-olds say that they have driven after drinking. �Research studies have shown that peer pressure can play a role in a youth�s decision to drink,� says Elizabeth Gyorfi-Dyke, Director of the Canadian Population Health Initiative at CIHI. �According to the evidence, a number of programs, including school-based instructional programs, may be effective in discouraging young people from becoming the passenger of a drunk driver, just as high-quality, well-executed mass media campaigns, in conjunction with other prevention measures, may be effective in discouraging drinking and driving.�

The Impact of Alcohol-Related Major Trauma

Overall, the average length of stay in a Canadian hospital is just over seven days. In 2002�2003, people sustaining alcohol-related major trauma experienced an average length of stay of almost 15 days (14.9). �The severity rating of alcohol-related trauma injuries is very high, according to the international severity index,� says Margaret Keresteci. �These are injuries that mean the person has to be transported to a specialized trauma hospital for care. Injuries of this level of severity are often life threatening and are definitely life altering, often with extended, and sometimes incomplete, recoveries.�

Between 2000�2001 and 2002�2003, 144 young people died in hospital after sustaining alcohol-related major trauma. These deaths represent 16% of all in-hospital deaths resulting from severe trauma in this age group. In all other age groups, 10% of severe trauma deaths were associated with alcohol-related trauma.

The mortality rate in an alcohol-related collision varies with the age of the driver. The likelihood of death for a driver under the influence of alcohol who is younger than 25 is greater than that for any other age group. Of those who died as a result of trauma in a motor vehicle collision, and had a positive alcohol level, 43% were under the age of 25. Among youth, 62% of severe trauma deaths related to alcohol were the result of a motor vehicle collision, and 30% of these fatalities occurred in people younger than the legal drinking age. The Canada Safety Council estimates that in Canada, over four million automobile trips are taken every year in which drivers felt they were over the legal limit. In 2002, there were 850 road fatalities related to drinking drivers. Of all road fatalities that occurred among youth, 42% had positive alcohol levels.

Margaret Keresteci notes: �As young people celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of the summer, it is important for all of us to remember that alcohol-related injuries are often devastating, but they are also highly preventable.�

National Trauma Registry (NTR)

Managed by CIHI, the National Trauma Registry, Comprehensive Data Set (NTR CDS) provides data on hospitalizations and deaths resulting from major injury in 44 participating lead trauma centres in Canada (excluding Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the territories). The goal of the NTR CDS is to help reduce injury admissions and deaths in the country by identifying, describing and quantifying the nature and scope of injury in Canada. The information is used by policy-makers, researchers, coroners, trauma-care providers and injury-prevention specialists to develop and monitor injury prevention and treatment programs.

Canadian Population Health Initiative (CPHI)

The Canadian Population Health Initiative (CPHI) is part of the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). CPHI supports research to advance knowledge on the determinants of health in Canada and to develop policy options to improve population health and reduce health inequalities. CPHI is releasing the first report in the Improving the Health of Canadians 2005�2006 Report Series in September 2005. It will include new analysis of the interplay between factors such as family, school, community, peer relationships and work life and the health and development of young Canadians.

Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, pan-Canadian, not-for-profit organization working to improve the health of Canadians and the health care system by providing quality health information. CIHI�s mandate, as established by Canada�s health ministers, is to coordinate the development and maintenance of a common approach to health information for Canada. To this end, CIHI is responsible for providing accurate and timely information that is needed to establish sound health policies, manage the Canadian health system effectively and create public awareness of factors affecting good health.