Medico-legal aspects regarding drunk driving: experience and competency in practice of community service doctors
Background: Drunk driving has been reported to increase the risk of road traffic accidents associated with death and severe injury. In South Africa, an increase in blood alcohol concentration of as little as 0.01 g per 100 ml above the legal limit may warrant criminal prosecution or the denial of an insurance claim for damages. However, multiple court cases have been withdrawn because of the incompetence of officials at various stages of the investigation. The scope of the mistakes range from poor scene handling to the incorrect handling of blood samples at the laboratory to eventual laboratory testing of blood samples. Using a group of community service doctors (CSDs) as a cohort study group, this study investigated the competency of medical graduates in relation to the medico-legal aspects of drunk driving.
Methods: A self-administered questionnaire-based study was done with 150 CSDs. The questionnaire was administered in Afrikaans and English and was dispatched electronically via e-mail. All potential participants were contacted telephonically to obtain verbal consent. Results are displayed as percentages.
Results: A response rate of 59.3% was achieved. The results obtained in this study confirm that some CSDs lack competency in handling medico-legal aspects relating to drunk driving, and are thus unable to serve the communities they have been assigned to adequately. Their lack of skills and knowledge suggests that the present undergraduate Clinical Forensic Medicine curriculum is inadequate.
Conclusion: It would be beneficial to revise the curriculum for Clinical Forensic Medicine in undergraduate medical training to address the gap in knowledge and practice of various demands of forensic medicine required from new medical graduates and CSDs.
Keywords: blood alcohol concentration, clinical forensic medicine, community service doctors, drunk driving