DRIVING under the influence of yaqona is a notable cause of road accidents in Fiji, participants of a symposium on traffic injuries heard last month in Suva.
And males are three times more likely to be killed in road accidents than females, based on information analysed by a joint study by FNU and Auckland University of New Zealand.
Drivers with less than six hours of sleep in the previous 24 hours were six times more likely to be involved in injury-related crashes, the study found.
The findings, which were presented at the Traffic Related Injury in the Pacific symposium, came from a study of road traffic accidents in Viti Levu between October 2005 and September 2006.
"There is a higher risk of road traffic injury if you are driving after consuming kava in the previous 12 hours," project director Professor Shanthi Ameratunga, of Auckland University, told this newspaper.
Second project manager Dr Iris Wainiqolo of FNU said from October 2005 to September 2006, 2165 people were admitted to hospitals for injuries.
Of these, 329 were road traffic-related injuries, including 67 deaths. Researchers concluded that if all drivers had adequate rest the previous night, motor vehicle crash injuries on Viti Levu could fall by 34 per cent
Prof Ameratunga said the potential connection between kava drinking and traffic accidents was not appreciated in Fiji and further research was needed.
She said two out of three people who died on Viti Levu's roads were dead before they reached hospital, highlighting the challenges faced by emergency medical personnel.
She said Fiji's roads were unable to meet the demands of the fast increasing number of vehicles. As well, she said the number of people disabled from road accidents was often overlooked.