Self-harm and risk of motor vehicle crashes among young drivers: findings from the DRIVE Study

Alexandra L C Martiniuk, Rebecca Q Ivers, Nick Glozier, George C Patton, Lawrence T Lam, Soufiane Boufous, Teresa Senserrick, Ann Williamson, Mark Stevenson, Robyn Norton
Canadian Medical Association Journal: CMAJ 2009 November 24, 181 (11): 807-12

BACKGROUND: Some motor vehicle crashes, particularly single-vehicle crashes, may result from intentional self-harm. We conducted a prospective cohort study to assess the risk that intentional self-harm poses for motor vehicle crashes among young drivers.

METHODS: We prospectively linked survey data from newly licensed drivers aged 17-24 years to data on licensing attempts and police-reported motor vehicle crashes during the follow-up period. We investigated the role of recent engagement in self-harm on the risk of a crash. We took into account potential confounders, including number of hours of driving per week, psychological symptoms and substance abuse.

RESULTS: We included 18 871 drivers who participated in the DRIVE Study for whom data on self-harm and motor vehicle crashes were available. The mean follow-up was 2 years. Overall, 1495 drivers had 1 or more crashes during the follow-up period. A total of 871 drivers (4.6%) reported that they had engaged in self-harm in the year before the survey. These drivers were at significantly increased risk of a motor vehicle crash compared with drivers who reported no self-harm (relative risk [RR] 1.42, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.15-1.76). The risk remained significant, even after adjustment for age, sex, average hours of driving per week, previous crash, psychological distress, duration of sleep, risky driving behaviour, substance use, remoteness of residence and socio-economic status (RR 1.37, 95% CI 1.09-1.72). Most of the drivers who reported self-harm and had a subsequent crash were involved in a multiple-vehicle crash (84.1% [74/88]).

INTERPRETATION: Engagement in self-harm behaviour was an independent risk factor for subsequent motor vehicle crash among young drivers, with most crashes involving multiple vehicles.

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