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Research Priorities for Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving among Special Populations

This Research Needs Statement presents the top research priorities for reducing alcohol-impaired driving among special populations 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, repeat offenders, 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.
  • Determine and Understand Differences in Alcohol-Related Crash Rates Across Ethnic Groups and by Gender
Problem: This broad idea is the necessary first step to addressing impaired driving issues for these groups. Research to date has documented impaired driving levels and trends for women and has indicated differences in alcohol-related fatalities among different ethnic and racial groups. To date, though, there has been little research either to control for important other factors (such as socioeconomic status, immigrant status, and geographical location) or to understand the reasons for these differences.
Objective: This research should first tap existing data sources to describe and quantify alcohol-related crash rates, controlling for other relevant factors, and to monitor trends in these rates. To the extent allowed by existing data, the research should examine what situations and circumstances are associated with drinking and driving by these groups and what countermeasures these suggest. These results will help define more specific studies as needed, such as new large-scale data collection, innovative linking of existing data sets, or in-depth studies of well-defined populations. Quantitative and qualitative research methods should be employed.
  • Determine How Drivers Make Decisions About Drinking and Driving
Problem: While proposed by the Special Populations working group, this idea is relevant to all other groups as well. Our knowledge of how drivers make decisions on drinking and driving, both in advance and at the time of drinking, is limited. Our knowledge of how these decisions differ by gender and ethnic group is even more limited. It is clear, though, that social and peer norms and cultural attitudes have a substantial influence.
Objective: This research should study how drivers’ decision processes vary across gender and ethnic groups. How do drivers determine how much they can drink and still drive safely or legally? When do they make these decisions? How can drivers be educated about how to make responsible decisions? This research may require qualitative or ethnographic methods.
  • Determine the Knowledge Base of Ethnic and Gender Groups on Drinking and Driving
Problem:Research suggests that impaired driving norms and driver understanding of impaired driving laws and sanctions may vary by gender and by ethnic group. For example, what is per se or zero-tolerance laws? What does blood alcohol content (BAC) mean and how many drinks does it take to reach a jurisdiction’s BAC limit? Do drivers think their driving skills are impaired at the legal BAC limit? What is the risk of arrest if you drive after drinking? If arrested, what are the likely consequences?
Objective: This research should study these issues across important ethnic and gender groups, should determine the reasons for critical differences in understanding, and should investigate how to fill in any gaps.
  • Study Differences in Alcohol Assessment and Treatment Effectiveness by
    Gender and Ethnicity
Problem: Few studies have examined the extent to which alcohol assessment and treatment effectiveness vary by gender or ethnicity. Basic questions include when, where, and by whom alcohol screening should be conducted; how perceived risks and benefits of screening may influence participation; whether screening instruments or procedures are gender or culturally biased in any way; and whether alcohol treatment regimens are equally appropriate across ethnic and gender groups.
Objective: This research should study these issues first for the most frequently used alcohol screening instruments and treatment regimens when used with ethnic and gender groups at greatest risk of alcohol involvement and impaired driving.

Sponsoring Committee:ACS50, Impairment in Transportation
Date Posted:09/11/2007
Date Modified:09/11/2007
Index Terms:Alcohol abuse, Alcohol use, Blood alcohol levels, Gender, Ethnic groups, Crash rates, Decision making, Drunk drivers, Drunk driving, Traffic safety, Research projects,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Safety and Human Factors
Vehicles and Equipment

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