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Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis
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$4 million study planned for Virginia Beach auto crashes

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A team of researchers studying the role of drugs in automobile crashes will hit the streets of Virginia Beach in 2010 to quiz – and potentially draw blood from – drivers involved in traffic accidents, The Virginian-Pilot reported Friday.

The researchers are from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which bills itself on its Web site as “one of the nation’s preeminent independent nonprofit public health organization.”

Their goal is to learn how using drugs – over-the-counter, prescription, and illegal – plays a role in whether or not the driver gets into a crash.

The study is expected to involve 2,500 drivers who are in crashes and another 5,000 drivers not in crashes. It’s not clear how those 5,000 non-crash drivers will be selected.

To reach drivers involved in crashes, researchers will ride with off-duty police officers – paid by the institute – to crash scenes. Officers will introduce researchers to people involved in crashes. Participation is voluntary, the newspaper said.

“Not only is it conducting the valuable research that will be used nationwide and for many years to come, but also it’s supplementing our workforce,” Virginia Beach Police Department Sgt. Scott Wichtendahl told the Pilot. “The ramifications of it are astronomical.”

According to the Virginia Beach Police Department, drugs or alcohol were involved in 7 percent of the city’s 9,021 auto crashes in 2008.

Of 49 fatal crashes in 2008 and so far in 2009, 27 – more than half – involved drugs or alcohol.

The study will cost about $4 million.

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.

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