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Clin Psychol Rev. 2006 Mar;26(2):179-95. Epub 2005 Dec 20.

Relapse to driving under the influence (DUI): a review.

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School of Social Work, University at Buffalo, 660 Baldy Hall, Amherst, NY 14260, United States.


Driving under the influence (DUI) is a major public health problem. In 2003, there were 17,401 alcohol-related crash fatalities. Although there has been a large decrease in the fatality rates over the past two decades, further progress has stalled in recent years. This plateau in the injury and death rates resulting from impaired driving has been attributed, in part, to the persistent or repeat DUI offender. Broadly defined, repeat offenders are those individuals who, following an initial DUI arrest, relapse to driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. In this paper, we first provide a brief overview of several models of DUI relapse. We then review the empirical literature on DUI relapse, the data describing characteristics of first-time and repeat DUI offenders, and, especially, studies that have evaluated the impact of legal sanctions and rehabilitation programs on subsequent DUI behavior. The data reveal that DUI offenders are a heterogeneous group, and that simple models relying on only one or two behavioral domains (e.g., driving characteristics, demographics) to explain DUI relapse are insufficient to account for the DUI behavior of offenders. To advance our understanding of DUI relapse, we argue for development and testing of multifactorial models focusing on the interplay of legal, social and psychological factors that describe and explain relapse among DUI offenders. By recognizing the heterogeneity within the offender population it will be easier for researchers and clinicians to identify subgroups that are at high-risk for relapse and which should be targeted by prevention and intervention programs.

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