The files of 874 fatal traumatic accident victims, aged 12-25 years, examined at the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office during the period 1978-1988 were reviewed. Postmortem blood alcohol results of individuals who died after <15 min of hospitalization were utilized to approximate alcohol levels at the time of the fatal injury. Relationships between types of accidents, sex, age, race, and time of accident were examined. White victims were far more likely to have been drinking than blacks, and the data indicated that underaged drinkers were involved in fatal accidents at lower levels of blood alcohol than their counterparts of legal drinking age. Consistent racial differences in average alcohol levels were not observed, however. Unlike female and black victims, who much less frequently tested positive for alcohol when underage, white male victims 16-21 years of age were just as likely to have been drinking as those aged 21-25. The results of the study show that postmortem blood alcohol level can be used to identify differences in alcohol consumption among groups of accident victims in a major metropolitan area
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