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Policing the drunk driver: Measuring law enforcement involvement in reducing alcohol-impaired driving

Journal of Safety Research
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jsr.2006.10.007
  • Impaired Driving
  • Driving While Intoxicated
  • Performance Measurement
  • Dui Countermeasures
  • Dui Enforcement
  • Dui
  • Dwi
  • Communication
  • Criminology
  • Law


Abstract Introduction With many thousands of deaths still annually attributable to driving under the influence (DUI), it remains imperative that we continually address the problem of producing and sustaining effective countermeasures, and that we subject these efforts to empirical scrutiny. This article presents relevant findings from state-wide datasets. Results A formula generating a potentially useful metric for assessing aspects of the DUI prosecutorial chain is presented, focusing on the rate of proactive DUI arrests. While in need of cautious interpretation due to issues of inherent inaccuracies in large databases, small numbers of crashes and/or arrests in multiple jurisdictions, and the lack of replication in other states, the analyses show no relationship between the level of DUI arrest activity and DUI-related crashes. This finding brings into question the efficacy of the many millions of dollars devoted each year to targeted DUI enforcement, as it is currently being implemented. Conclusions Results are discussed in terms of developing adequate disincentives to DUI so as to raise general deterrence via dramatic increases in proactive DUI enforcement and then engaging in pervasive and persistent social marketing of such efforts to maximize the perception that arrest and punishment for DUI is always imminent, that penalties will be swift, certain, and severe. It is echoed that accurate data need to be collected at all levels of the DUI arrest and prosecution process in every jurisdiction within a state, so as to facilitate the empirical assessment of countermeasure efficacy in reducing alcohol-related crashes. Impact on Industry Given that this work needs to be replicated, the impact on the traffic safety industry is potentially huge. The present data indicate that law enforcement efforts to further abate DUI-related crashes are apparently ineffective, though likely necessary to maintain reductions achieved in the 80s and early 90s. Thus, to attain additional systematic reductions, a dramatic increase in enforcement will be necessary as will a diversification of abatement efforts, including an increase in aggressive social marketing tactics to positively impact our traffic safety culture by making DUI universally unacceptable (for a discussion of this latter issue and on the use of positive reinforcement to change driver behavior, see Dula & Geller, 2007).

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