Research Priorities for Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving among Repeat Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Offenders
This Research Needs Statement presents the top research priorities for reducing alcohol-impaired driving among repeat driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenders identified by the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB’s) Committee on Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Transportation at its 1999 workshop. Research priorities for reducing impaired driving among other groups of interest including in the general driving population, youth, special populations, and persons impaired by drugs other than alcohol were also established at the workshop and are available on this website. For a full list of research priorities identified at the workshop, refer to TRB Circular Number 502, Alcohol and Other Drugs in Transportation: Research Needs and Priorities.
- Develop and Evaluate a Model First-Time DWI Offender Classification System for Assigning Interventions
Problem: A driver’s first DWI arrest provides a unique opportunity to prevent subsequent drinking and driving. Courts typically treat all first-time offenders the same. But if persons likely to repeat their drinking and driving can be identified and directed to appropriate sanctioning and rehabilitation programs, then some offenders who would not be affected by standard first-offender sanctions will be prevented or deterred before they become habitual drinking drivers.
Objective: This research first should develop an objective and workable definition of persons most likely to continue drinking and driving, for use with first-time DWI offenders. Next, the research should develop and evaluate a system for classifying these offenders to determine what interventions will be most effective for first offenders at various recidivism risk levels. In particular, the classification system should include screening, diagnosis, examination of motivation level, and assessment of the offender’s driving behavior, criminal risk, and mental status including cognitive function. Using this assessment, the system should recommend if alcohol treatment is appropriate and, if so, should suggest the most appropriate treatment types. While such a system might also be applied usefully to repeat offenders, the first research priority is to develop a system for first-time offenders.
- Determine the Extent to Which Programs and Policies Have a Specific Deterrent Effect on Repeat Offenders
Problem: Repeat DWI offenders in different jurisdictions are subject to many different sanctions, programs, and policies that attempt to prevent further drinking and driving. These are directed toward the offenders (DWI courts, “boot camp,” electronically-monitored house arrest, and other special DWI offender incarceration strategies; intensive probation, community service, brief intervention programs and other treatment strategies), or toward their vehicles (immobilization, impoundment, forfeiture, alcohol ignition interlocks, special license plates, license plate revocation, etc.). Some of these measures have been evaluated to some extent while some have not. Additional evaluation is needed on virtually all.
Objective: This research should go beyond the standard evaluation criterion—has the measure reduced drinking and driving by these offenders—to investigate the next level issues. How does the measure’s effectiveness vary by offender type? How long should the measure be continued? Are some measures best used in combination? What are the practical problems in administrating the measure and how can they be resolved?
- Determine the General Deterrent Effects of Countermeasure Programs and
Problem: Repeat offenders appear not to have been deterred from drinking and driving either by general public education and awareness messages or by the fear of arrest and sanction. Some research suggests that more targeted messages may have some deterrent effect. Some states are enacting new legislation designed to deter repeat offenders from drinking and driving, for example, by establishing more severe penalties for drivers at a high BAC level.
Objective: This research should study how best to deter continued drinking and driving among repeat offenders by persuasion or threat. In particular, the research should evaluate the effects of increasing sanction severity as BAC levels increase.
- Assess the Problem of Drivers Who Do Not Reinstate Their License After Suspension
Problem: Substantial research shows that driver license suspension or revocation is effective in reducing drinking and driving. But this measure has an important consequence. Studies in California show a large proportion of suspended and revoked drivers do not reinstate their licenses when they are eligible to do so.
Objective: This research should study these persons and their experiences with the motor vehicle licensing system. Questions to be addressed include:
Why do they not reinstate? Do they continue to drive without a license? Are they insured? Do they drink and drive? What is their violation and crash experience? What are the system-based impediments to relicensure? How can these impediments be reduced?
- Determine the Causes and Correlates of DWI Recidivism
Problem: Most research on repeat DWI offenders has been cross-sectional, comparing them with other drivers. We know little about their long-term history. How did they become drinking drivers and repeat offenders. How do many eventually “mature out” of their drinking and driving?
Objective: This research should conduct long-term longitudinal studies of a large cohort of first time offenders to determine how they developed this behavior, what factors predict or correlate with continued drinking and driving over a long-term driving career, and reasons why they eventually stop. It should also explore how this information could be used to reduce drinking and driving by others, or at an earlier age.