Volume 32, Issue 4 (July 1987)
Natural Death While Driving
Of sudden natural deaths while driving, 126 occurred during 1980 through 1985 in the northern half of Sweden. The mean age of the 69 car driver victims was 59 years, considerably higher than that of traumatic car deaths, and all but 2 were males. The mean age of 57 operators of other vehicles was 66 years, and of these, 6 were women. Seven car drivers were stricken during commercial employment. Most accidents occurred during daytime and the distribution of the weekdays was fairly even. ischemic heart disease accounted for 112 deaths, and other cardiovascular diseases for an additional 9 deaths. Only ⅕ of the victims experienced previous symptoms of disease. Out of at least 31 other persons at risk in the car deaths, only 2 passengers suffered minor injuries. The trauma in the deceased was in most cases minor in both car and other vehicle deaths. Property damage was also minimal. At least ⅓ of the drivers were able to stop the car before becoming unconscious. In none of the car cases was alcohol detected in the blood, while alcohol was identified in at least 2 of the other vehicle victims. The findings here agree with previous studies that natural deaths at the wheel are fairly uncommon, and that the risk for other persons is not significant. The value of adequate postmortem examinations of drivers dying in traffic is stressed—natural deaths can otherwise be overlooked.