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Priorities for Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving among Repeat Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Offenders

Explore technology for identifying and controlling impaired driving offenders.

Problem: The most common technological control method is the alcohol interlock, which some jurisdictions require as a condition of driver license reinstatement for driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenders. Numerous studies indicate that this is an effective way of reducing recidivism. The critical issues continue to be administrative rather than technological. For example, in some jurisdictions interlocks are installed on the cars of fewer than 20 percent of the offenders for whom they are“required.” Motor vehicle programs can be administered more consistently, however, the highest rates of interlock uptake (60-70%) have only been found with fully committed judicial programs; this has occurred because the courts can offer less appealing alternatives to those who reject the interlock.

Objective: This research should study these administrative issues. What are the barriers to more vigorous implementation and how can they be overcome? Strategies such as moving administration away from courts and to motor vehicle licensing agencies, or education of judges should be explored. An evaluation is also warranted in cases where the motor vehicle licensing authority works cooperatively with, or under the authority of the courts, in order to strengthen offender adherence to interlock requirements. What are the core components of ignition interlock programs that ensure successful implementation? Alternatively, are any of the many unevaluated components unnecessarily intrusive (e.g., serial running retests)? How can evaluation (formative, process, outcome) be incorporated into ignition interlock programs to understand and correct problems with maximizing the number of offenders who receive the treatment?

Determine the extent to which programs and policies have a specific deterrent effect on repeat offenders.

Problem: Repeat DWI offenders in different jurisdictions are subject to many different sanctions, programs, and policies that attempt to prevent further drinking and driving. These are directed toward the offenders (DWI courts, electronically-monitored house arrest, alcohol consumption monitoring (e.g. SCRAM, alcohol biomarkers) and other special DWI offender incarceration strategies; intensive probation, community service, brief intervention programs and other treatment strategies), or toward their vehicles (immobilization, impoundment, forfeiture, special license plates, license plate revocation, etc.). Some of these measures have been evaluated to some extent while some have not. Additional evaluation is needed on virtually all. Research is needed to determine the best practice management of offenders.

Objective: This research should go beyond the standard evaluation criterion—has the measure reduced drinking and driving by these offenders—to investigate the next level issues. How does the measure’s effectiveness vary by offender type? How long should the measure be continued? Are some measures best used in combination? What are the practical problems in administrating the measure and how can they be resolved? What would be a sensible step down sequence ranging from greater to lesser intensive monitoring as goals are achieved?


Determine the causes and correlates of DWI recidivism.

Problem: Most research on repeat DWI offenders has been cross-sectional, comparing them with other drivers. We know little about their long-term history. How did they become drinking drivers and repeat offenders? How do many eventually “mature out” of their drinking and driving?

Objective: This research should conduct long-term longitudinal studies of a large cohort of first time offenders to determine how they developed this behavior, what factors predict or correlate with continued drinking and driving over a long-term driving career, and reasons why they eventually stop. Research should also explore how this information could be used to reduce drinking and driving by others, or at an earlier age

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