So there's this theory going around that being drunk makes you less prone to die in a car crash or other blunt force trauma like falling because you are more "relaxed" and your body is limp. Is there any truth to it?

Some examples:

From comments on a reddit post:

I think it's because it leaves you less prone to inertia. If you're relaxed like a drunk usually is, your body gets tossed around like a rag doll but it moves with the force of the collision instead of remaining stationary and having the force of the collision go through the body. At least that's how it was explained to me. I am gullible, though.

From answers to a Yahoo question:

When drunk, your muscles are limp, your reflexes are slow, etc. Blunt force traumas are easier to take if you respond like jelly instead of by tensing up. Fewer bones may break, less internal bleeding from tensed muscles around bones being banged around. I forget the exact example, but someone survived a 60-foot fall down a cliff edge barely scathed, because he fell while asleep and limp.

  • There have been studies on trauma victims but the mechanism for increased survival was not found. They mention a "folk belief" in that article that closely matches your question regarding car crashes and being relaxed which should help for notability. This article backs up the notability but suggests that the effect in cars is opposite.
    – Ladadadada
    Jul 10, 2014 at 10:31
  • Are you asking whether: a) "Assuming you're in a car accident is it safer to be drunk?" or b) "Assuming you're driving a car is it safer to be drunk?" -- It's possible that if you're in an accident then it's safer to be drunk, but that it's even safer to be sober because you're then less likely to get into in an accident in the first place.
    – ChrisW
    Jul 10, 2014 at 10:37
  • 1
    Several comments in this thread repeat the claim, including specifically that "being relaxed" is what makes the difference.
    – Ladadadada
    Jul 10, 2014 at 10:37
  • @ChrisW, the question is about a famous urban legend that states that drunk people are less likely to get hurt because their body is limp, this has been attributed to any incident where the body is hurt including falling and car accidents. An example is in this Yahoo Question
    – SIMEL
    Jul 10, 2014 at 10:39
  • Purely anecdotical: my friend was sleepwalking and fell out of the window. It was 6th floor and he fell on a asphalt surface. He broke about dozen bones, but doctors were really surprised that he survived at the impact and didn't damage any vital organs or bones. So yeah, there is a possible thing about being relaxed.
    – Andrey
    Jul 15, 2014 at 3:08

1 Answer 1

  1. The belief that drunken injuries, such as those incurred during car crashes, are likely to be less severe perhaps due to increased relaxation or limpness at the time of an accident is probably grossly false referring to Lee S. Friedman who has conducted research on dose–response relationship between in-hospital mortality and alcohol following acute injury.

There is a folk belief that drunken injuries, especially those incurred during car crashes, are likely to be less severe, due perhaps to increased relaxation or limpness at the time of an accident. But Friedman says his research has convinced him that this belief is "probably grossly overestimated and false."

  1. Research shows that drunk drivers have higher fatality rates than those who are hit based on statistics here and here and drunk drivers are more likely to be killed or injured in crashes than those who are not intoxicated.

You may have heard it said that drunk drivers tend to live through deadly accidents more often than the people they hit. This is often attributed to numerous factors, including the fact that someone who is drunk may not be in complete control of his or her body, and therefore will be unable to stiffen up or brace for the impact, which actually helps survival rates. However, despite how often this is repeated, the stats show that it is actually just a myth.

  • I imagine this rumor arises because the instances where a drunk driver kills others and survives end up getting passed around more by people outraged over the unfairness of it. Thus we see a lot of these stories. I know I see them on social media a lot. Nov 11, 2015 at 22:14

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