Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health

Patients' Risk of Causing Traffic Violations and Traffic Accidents While Driving

Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health

Patients' Risk of Causing Traffic Violations and Traffic Accidents While Driving

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The high number of deaths and injuries due to traffic accidents and substantial damage is a major social and public health problem. The number of deaths and injuries due to traffic accidents justifies this phenomenon as having reached epidemic proportions. Globally, this phenomenon can be labeled a pandemic because it is not limited to individual countries, since it is a worldwide problem typical of all societies with substantial traffic.

In 2011, 30,100 people died on roads in the European Union, which is equivalent to the population of a medium-sized town, and 324,000 people were injured. In the European Union, the social costs of the worst consequences of traffic accidents in 2010 amounted to €130 billion.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has forecast that 2.34 million people will die in traffic accidents in 2020, compared to 1,183,492 deaths in 2002. Among the latter, more than half were young people and middle-aged adults. In 2000, traffic accidents were the ninth-leading cause of death and were responsible for 2.8% of all causes of death and disability. The WHO forecasts that traffic accidents may rank third among all causes of disability in the world in the next few years (1).

Numerous global studies have shown that drivers under the influence of alcohol are involved in more than a quarter of fatal accidents. Drivers under the influence of marijuana are also involved in a share of fatal accidents. Alcohol and marijuana severely impair the ability to drive, and the level of impairment depends on the quantity ingested. Mixing alcohol with marijuana decreases the ability to drive even in quantities that would be negligible if only one substance were taken (2). Researchers have reported on drivers that were prescribed opiates and benzodiazepines and that incurred higher risks of causing traffic accidents (3). These are more frequent among young drivers and on weekends, primarily because of changed behaviour due to drinking alcohol, drug abuse, and lack of sleep (4).

Studies also show that drivers' diseases may represent risk factors for traffic accidents. Some researchers therefore believe that assessing the ability to drive should be included in medical practice, especially for alcoholics and patients with mental and behavioural disorders (5, 6).

Researchers report that patients with mental and behavioural disorders are at high risk of causing traffic accidents despite the fact that they generally drive less than the control group (7). As Muršec has stated, mental disorders often intertwine with physical disorders because there is no condition or disorder in medicine whereby patients would not experience mental changes when suffering from a physical disorder. Emergency conditions in psychiatry are conditions of unusual behaviour, mood, and thoughts that have negative effects on patients and other people in the community in various ways (8).

Studies on drivers with epilepsy often show that they cause traffic accidents less frequently than the drivers in the rest of the population, and that reporting people with epilepsy and suspending their driver's licenses does not decrease the rate of traffic accidents (9). Similar results are also described in a study of differences between the mortality of drivers with epilepsy and cardiovascular diseases in traffic accidents. It showed that deaths of drivers due to epileptic seizures in the US are half as likely as deaths of patients with cardiovascular disorders and diabetes (10). Nonetheless, Australian neurologists, for instance, favour greater restrictions for professional drivers with epilepsy (11).

Diseases of the nervous system, such as chronic pain, consequences of a stroke, injuries to the brain and spinal cord, depression, and dementia are among the most important causes of reduced quality of life. Two large groups of neurological and psychiatric disorders belong to cerebral disorders. Together, they represent the greatest public health issue in Europe and the western world. …

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