Are Drunk Drivers Really More Likely to Survive a Crash?
According to first responders, yes.
Drunk people are more likely to survive a collision and come away with fewer and more minor injuries than their sober counterparts. They’re also more likely to leave the hospital sooner than other trauma patients. It seems counterintuitive given that being drunk was what probably caused the accident in the first place. So why are drunk drivers more likely to survive?
The popular theory is that intoxicated people basically just bounce, like a soft, pliant ragdoll. Whether by design or not, they take the path of least resistance. Let’s look at the actual anatomy of a car crash so we can break it down more scientifically.
The science behind car crashes
One of the most important factors in a crash is the speed at which the driver and the car are traveling. If you’re driving 40 miles per hour, you’re covering 58 feet per second. At 60 miles per hour, that number jumps to 87 feet per second. When a sudden crash halts the vehicle’s forward momentum, it rapidly decelerates, possibly going down to zero miles per hour in a single instant. In the 60-miles-per-hour scenario, your body is still traveling at a rate equivalent to 29 yards per hour, which is like going about a quarter of the length of a football field. All of that forward momentum now has nowhere to go and is compressed into the moment of impact.
That moment of impact is actually three impacts, since 1) the car hits the object, 2) your body hits the car or another object, and 3) your inner organs hit the inside of your body, which all can result in serious injuries—or even death.
Why are drunk people more likely to survive injuries?
It’s not that intoxicated drivers don’t sustain injuries. They definitely do, but they’re likely to be less severe. A group of LA physicians found that 9.7% of sober patients died of head injury versus only 7.7% of drunk patients, which is a “statistically significant difference.” But why do drunk people not get hurt as much?
There is actually evidence in support of the ragdoll theory. Because of their impaired perception and reaction time, the drunk driver doesn’t prepare for impact. Ironically, the alert, sober driver who braces for the crash is making their body more stiff and brittle right before the moment of impact. Therefore, they are more likely to sustain serious injuries. Meanwhile, the drunk driver stays relaxed and pliable.
Findings from a University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) study also support the theory that drunk drivers are more likely to survive a car crash. Whether or not the accident is fatal may be determined not by the accident itself, but by the body’s individual emergency response to the trauma. For one thing, car accidents can be terrifying. So there’s a serious risk of heart complications or outright failure. However, the UIC research suggests that alcohol actually combats heart failure. In fact, alcohol even boosts the heart’s ability to pump blood. Therefore, being drunk provides a protective effect on the body. And the drunker you are, the more protective the effect (within reason).
The real damage of drunk driving accidents in Hanover, PA
The real reasons drunk drivers are more likely to walk away from accidents is still a bit murky. But it’s clear that drunk driving accidents can cause significant injuries, deaths, and emotional trauma.
Injuries can vary, from minor injuries like bruising and mild lacerations to broken bones or loss of limb. According to the National Library of Medicine, other possible injuries include:
- Fractures of the spine
- Head, neck, chest, and abdominal injuries
- Pulmonary contusions and rib fractures
- Lower extremity, pelvic, or abdominal trauma
- Aortic or organ shear injuries
- Crushing or smashing of body parts
- Flexion and extension injuries of the neck
- Fractures of the pelvis, neck, clavicle, or skull
Damages aren’t limited to physical injuries. Those who have been involved in a car accident may also be psychologically wounded as well. They may be fearful and might try to steer clear of the area where the accident occurred. They might develop “travel phobia,” a psychological condition that may make a person avoid getting in a car again at all.
It is not uncommon for people who were involved in car accidents to suffer from general anxiety or to experience long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after an event. In fact, vehicular accidents are the most common cause of PTSD. Other common disturbances may include:
- Violent behavior
- Major depressive disorder
- Other emotional disturbances
- Alcohol disorders
- Other substance-abuse disorders
- Significantly greater fears for personal safety
- Worries about driving
- Negative psychological symptoms
Even those who didn’t report any emotional trauma at the time of the incident may experience these symptoms at a later date. In some cases, psychological problems may not present until up to 18 months after the vehicular accident.
The negative effects of the accident can extend beyond those who were in the crashed cars. If a loved one was severely injured or killed in the accident, children may be left without parents, and families can be torn apart.
For their first DUI offense, which is a misdemeanor, PA drunk drivers receive six months of probation and a $300 fine. If you or a loved one has been a victim of a drunk driving accident, this punishment may hardly seem fair or adequate. It’s only natural for you to want to seek the justice you deserve.
Drunk-driving injury claims in Hanover, PA
According to PennDOT statistics, there were 117,899 reportable traffic accidents in Pennsylvania in 2021. Of these, 9,220 were alcohol-related, with 311 fatalities. Of all 67 counties, York County was number nine for the highest number of crashes (4,547) for the year.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a drunk driving accident in Hanover, PA, KBG Injury Law is here to help.
KBG Injury Law knows York County. We serve clients in the Lancaster, Harrisburg, Hanover, Gettysburg, and York, PA vicinities. Use our contact form to let us how we can help with your claim. Our experts are ready to evaluate the details of your case and put together a personalized plan for your personal injury case. Whether you have suffered physical or emotional trauma, it will be our honor to get you the results you deserve.
The personal injury attorneys at KBG Injury Law are all experienced litigators. Almost all of them represented insurance companies prior to becoming advocates for injured people, which provides them with a unique perspective and insight into how these companies operate. They also offer extensive courtroom experience if going to trial is the best legal alternative for the client.