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Psychosocial Characteristics of Impaired Drivers: An Integrated Review in Relation to Problem Behavior Theory (From Drinking and Driving: Advances in Research and Prevention, P 13-41, 1990, R Jean Wilson and Robert E Mann, eds. -- See NCJ-138065)

NCJ Number
B A Jonah
Date Published
29 pages
This chapter reviews research that differentiates impaired drivers from other drivers in terms of behavior, psychosocial characteristics, and environmental influences; the findings are integrated within the conceptual framework of problem behavior theory (PBT).
PBT is primarily composed of three independent yet linked systems of psychosocial influence: the behavioral system, the personality system, and the perceived-environment system. Within each system, there are explanatory variables that reflect the motivation to engage in problem behavior or constraints on it, with the net result being a proneness to engage in problem behavior. This review found support for the argument that impaired driving is embedded in a behavioral system that consists of risky driving, excessive alcohol consumption, drug use, and, to a lesser extent, unhealthy behavior and illegal activity. Evidence concerning the relationship between driving while intoxicated (DWI) and the personality and the perceived-environment system, although not conclusive, is consistent with PBT in a number of areas, including the personal belief structure, the personal control structure, and the influence of friends. There is also considerable evidence for a relationship between aggression, depression, impulsivity, and emotional maladjustment and impaired driving; there is some indication that a stressful environment fraught with interpersonal conflicts may be a significant antecedent of DWI in some cases. Given the evidence that impaired driving is embedded in a constellation of high-risk behaviors, it is unlikely that DWI behavior can be changed without basic personality and lifestyle changes. The difficulty of such an undertaking suggests that early intervention to prevent the development of maladaptive and problem behaviors should have priority. 71 references