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Traffic Inj Prev. 2011 Apr;12(2):120-7. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2010.540275.

Frequency of alcohol-impaired driving in New York State.

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  • 1Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, University at Albany, Albany, New York 12205, USA.



Establishing an estimate of how many New Yorkers drink and drive and how often and determining what would influence drinking drivers to change their behavior.


A random-digit-dialing telephone survey was conducted with 865 New York drivers ages 18 or older with a response rate of 86 percent. Focus groups with New York State convicted drinking drivers were held in 18 communities throughout the state.


An estimated 1.7 million drivers generate an estimated 31 million incidents of drinking and driving on New York's roadways each year. The probability of being arrested is approximately one out of 500 or .002. Information gathered from the focus groups indicates that the perception of risk of arrest for driving while intoxicated (DWI) is low, the penalties and sanctions are too lenient for both first-time and repeat offenders, treatment (if appropriate) should be mandatory, and public information and education efforts need to be changed.


Although New York State has reduced the prevalence of drinking and driving over the last quarter of a century, reducing alcohol-related fatalities by 61 percent, the finding that an estimated 31 million impaired driving trips occur annually on its roadways is staggering. The general deterrence model that has been implemented in New York clearly has had an effect on changing the behavior of many drivers who understand and reject the risks of driving after drinking. At the same time, however, it has become increasingly apparent that this approach is not sufficient to change the behavior of all drivers. These remaining drivers need a different combination of penalties, rewards, and assistance than current programs provide. More consistency and follow-up in dealing with impaired drivers and support from within the existing legal and social networks are also critical to reducing drinking and driving.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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