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Journal Article


Fell JC, Waehrer G, Voas RB, Auld-Owens A, Carr K, Pell K. Accid. Anal. Prev. 2014; 73C: 181-186.


Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), 11720 Beltsville Drive, Suite 900, Calverton, MD 20705-3111, USA.


(Copyright © 2014, Elsevier Publishing)






BACKGROUND: Research measuring levels of enforcement has investigated whether increases in police activities (e.g., checkpoints, driving-while-intoxicated [DWI] special patrols) above some baseline level are associated with reduced crashes and fatalities. Little research, however, has attempted to quantitatively measure enforcement efforts and relate different enforcement levels to specific levels of the prevalence of alcohol-impaired driving.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of law-enforcement intensity in a sample of communities on the rate of crashes involving a drinking driver. We analyzed the influence of different enforcement strategies and measures: (1) specific deterrence - annual number of driving-under-the-influence (DUI) arrests per capita; (2) general deterrence - frequency of sobriety checkpoint operations; (3) highly visible traffic enforcement - annual number of traffic stops per capita; (4) enforcement presence - number of sworn officers per capita; and (5) overall traffic enforcement - the number of other traffic enforcement citations per capita (i.e., seat belt citations, speeding tickets, and other moving violations and warnings) in each community.

METHODS: We took advantage of nationwide data on the local prevalence of impaired driving from the 2007 National Roadside Survey (NRS), measures of DUI enforcement activity provided by the police departments that participated in the 2007 NRS, and crashes from the General Estimates System (GES) in the same locations as the 2007 NRS. We analyzed the relationship between the intensity of enforcement and the prevalence of impaired driving crashes in 22-26 communities with complete data. Log-linear regressions were used throughout the study.

RESULTS: A higher number of DUI arrests per 10,000 driving-aged population was associated with a lower ratio of drinking-driver crashes to non-drinking-driver crashes (p=0.035) when controlling for the percentage of legally intoxicated drivers on the roads surveyed in the community from the 2007 NRS.

RESULTS indicate that a 10% increase in the DUI arrest rate is associated with a 1% reduction in the drinking driver crash rate. Similar results were obtained for an increase in the number of sworn officers per 10,000 driving-age population.

DISCUSSION: While a higher DUI arrest rate was associated with a lower drinking-driver crash rate, sobriety checkpoints did not have a significant relationship to drinking-driver crashes. This appeared to be due to the fact that only 3% of the on-the-road drivers were exposed to frequent sobriety checkpoints (only 1 of 36 police agencies where we received enforcement data conducted checkpoints weekly). This low-use strategy is symptomatic of the general decline in checkpoint use in the U.S. since the 1980s and 1990s when the greatest declines in alcohol-impaired-driving fatal crashes occurred. The overall findings in this study may help law enforcement agencies around the country adjust their traffic enforcement intensity in order to reduce impaired driving in their community.

Language: en


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