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Characteristics of Drinking Drivers

NCJ Number
A C Donelson; D J Beirness; D R Mayhew
Date Published
181 pages
This literature review summarizes present knowledge on the attributes and characteristics of drinking drivers, with emphasis on the findings of Canadian research.
The analysis finds three groups of such drivers: drinking drivers, alcohol-impaired drivers, and accident-involved drinking drivers. While as a whole drinking drivers are a heterogenous group, research has identified some characteristics of drinking drivers who are involved in accidents or arrested for alcohol-related driving offenses. High blood alcohol concentrations are overrepresented among such drivers. They tend to be males and between 20 to 34 years old. On the average, younger and older drivers drink less and in lower amounts. Accident risk may be higher among separated/divorced individuals than among the single and married. A substantial proportion of those involved in accidents or arrested for alcohol-related driving offenses are problem drinkers or alcoholics. Among those arrested are many drivers with poor driving records, suggesting the existence of a high-risk group of problem drivers who also drink. Finally, accident-involved and arrested drivers frequently evidence personality traits or personal problems that contribute to their dangerous behavior. The implications of knowledge about drinking drivers for law, law enforcement, and the aims of sanctions (deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution, incapacitation) are discussed. Tables, appendixes, and approximately 130 references.