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Traffic Inj Prev. 2010 Oct;11(5):443-52. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2010.488274.

Drinking characteristics of drivers arrested for driving while intoxicated in two police jurisdictions.

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  • 1Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Impaired Driving Center, Calverton, Maryland, USA.



Are drivers arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) most likely to be the drinking drivers who are involved in fatal and serious injury crashes? This study determined the drinking characteristics of drivers arrested for DWI or driving under the influence (DUI) and the proportion classified as problem drinkers and hardcore drinking drivers in two police jurisdictions. In addition to determining the drinking characteristics of DWI arrestees, the results were compared to the drinking characteristics of intoxicated drivers killed in traffic crashes.


Police officers gathered data at the time of arrest from 1027 drivers apprehended for DWI or DUI in the two communities on their alcohol consumption, their drinking-and-driving frequency, their self-reported alcohol problems, their place of drinking and types of drinks before the arrest, and their perceptions of impaired-driving enforcement intensity.


Data analyses indicated that 52 percent of the arrested DWI offenders were considered problem drinkers, 46 percent were repeat offenders, 57 percent were classified as hardcore drinking drivers, 51 percent were drinking at a bar or restaurant before their arrest, and 72 percent were drinking beer before their arrest.


Compared to highly intoxicated (blood alcohol concentration [BAC] ≥.15) drivers killed in traffic crashes, the high-BAC arrestees were substantially more likely to be problem drinkers and to report drinking and driving more often. The limited resources available for combating impaired driving should not be solely allocated to problem drinkers, hardcore drinkers, or repeat offenders because, at most, they constitute only about half of the impaired-driving problem in the United States. General deterrent strategies have the best chance of impacting the total population of at-risk drinking drivers.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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