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DUI Recidivism

Drinking and driving is a crime that tends to reflect recidivist behavior, which means that repeat offenses are very common. A person who is arrested for DWI/DUI has most likely done it before, and will most likely do it again. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or higher involved in fatal crashes were 4.5 times more likely to have a prior conviction for DWI than were drivers with no alcohol in their system.” 1 As many as one in three DWI/DUI offenders will be re-arrested. 2 Of persons convicted of a DWI/DUI, no less than 33% will become recidivists within two years. 3

Drinking and driving is a seriously destructive and addictive habit. Not only are DWI/DUI offenders likely to engage in this illegal practice routinely; they are also more likely to have ingested greater amounts of alcohol when they get behind the wheel, and more likely to drink heavily with greater frequency than persons who do not drive after drinking. A landmark 1968 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation to Congress asserts that problem drinkers account for 66% of those involved in alcohol- related crashes. 4

Alternative Motorized Transportation

Many repeat DWI/DUI offenders have had their driver’s license revoked as a court-mandated sanction following an arrest. Not being permitted to drive a passenger car presents a practical problem for the individual, but more generally gives rise to a separate traffic hazard with considerably more lenient regulation: mopeds and scooters. And as recidivism is high among DWI/DUI offenders, the result is a disturbingly high number of intoxicated moped and scooter operators. One study of motor vehicle crashes involving mopeds found that nearly half of the participants had a positive blood alcohol level at the time of the incident, and 45% of those individuals had a previous DWI. The study concluded that legally “allow[ing] repeat offenders the sustained opportunity to operate motorized vehicles” is a public safety risk. 5 This is particularly alarming in dense urban areas, cities clustered in neighborhoods, and university towns, where short-distance transportation may cover many drivers’ primary movement.

In Texas, the operation of a moped or scooter technically requires a motorcycle license (class M). But if the bike does not require shifting gears, or does not exceed a speed of 30 mph, and does not have a piston displacement of more than 50 ccs (cubic centimeters), the driver may not need to pass a motorcycle license test. He/she may be eligible for a K restriction. 6 More simply, drivers over 18 years of age who have lost their license to drive a car because of a DWI/DUI offense may be permitted to drive a moped or scooter below a certain speed limit. Importantly, even at modest speeds a motor vehicle can cause severe damage and personal injury.

Perceptions and Objective Measures of Addiction and Abuse

DWI/DUI recidivism is linked to substance abuse and dependence. Because these conditions are stigmatized, implementation of treatment that would prevent further accidents and injury is complicated by addicts’ insistence that they do not in fact have a problem. Drinking and driving then becomes a symptom of an underlying condition – a condition that the person denies, even to him/herself. A study published in the Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education assessed the discrepancy between DWI/DUI offenders’ perceived alcohol abuse problems and objective data regarding the offenders’ actual dependence, measured against the Numerical Drinking Profile (NDP). The NDP data was drawn from the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST), which includes such questions as:

  • How many times have you been arrested on charges involving alcohol (not including the present DWI charge)?
  • Is someone close to you concerned about your drinking?
  • With whom did you do most of your drinking before this arrest?
  • Do you believe your drinking may be causing you problems?
  • Do you want help for a drinking problem?

The researchers found that, even though 90% of the offenders responded no to the question about their perceived drinking problem, the objective measurement (Numerical Drinking Profile) classified 78% as having either a potential or evident drinking problem. 7 On the issue of recidivism, or repeat DWI/DUI offenses, the same study states that “problem drinkers and people with alcohol dependence account for a large portion of alcohol related crashes, including those that are fatal.” 8

References

1 Impaired Driving Fact Sheet

2 Peter G. Miller, “Effectiveness of Interventions for Convicted DUI Offenders in Reducing Recidivism: A Systematic Review of the Peer-reviewed Scientific Literature,” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 41 (2015): 16.

3 Rita A. Britzenhoff, et al., “Mopeds: The Legal Loophole for Repeat Driving While Intoxicated Offenders,” American Journal of Surgery 202 (2011): 697.

4 U.S. Department of Transportation, “1968 Alcohol and Highway Safety,” Report to the U.S. Congress. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968.

5 Rita A. Britzenhoff, et al., “Mopeds: The Legal Loophole for Repeat Driving While Intoxicated Offenders,” American Journal of Surgery 202 (2011): 697.

6 Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, LINK.

7 Adam E. Barry and Maurice Dennis, “A Comparison of Actual and Perceived Problem Drinking Among Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Offenders,” Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education 55 (2011): 58.

8 Adam E. Barry and Maurice Dennis, “A Comparison of Actual and Perceived Problem Drinking Among Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Offenders,” Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education 55 (2011): 61.

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