States With More Traffic Stops and DUI Arrests Have Fewer Drunk Drivers

States that have a greater number of random traffic stops and a higher number of DUI arrests have a lower rate of drunk driving, a new study concludes.

The study looked at almost 6,900 weekend nighttime drivers in 30 communities who were stopped and screened for blood alcohol levels.

“Hardly any new laws are being passed regarding drinking and driving,” said study lead author James Fell, a senior research scientist with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Maryland. “So we think the best strategy for making progress on reducing impaired driving could be better enforcement of the laws we already have.”

The study is published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

“The public notices police cars on the side of the road issuing citations or arresting drivers for DUI,” Fell said in a news release. “That serves as a general deterrent and increases their perceived risk of being caught driving impaired.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10,076 people died in crashes involving a drunk driver in 2013 — one death every 52 minutes.

“People only change their behavior when they think they’re going to get caught,” Kara Macek, a spokeswoman for the Governors Highway Safety Association in Washington, D.C., told HealthDay. “When it comes to drunk driving you need to use the stick more than the carrot.”

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    February 18, 2015 at 5:40 PM

    For years folks looking at the outcomes of community based prevention have debated whether more arrests for alcohol related behavior meant that there were more problems or whether it just meant better enforcement. This seems to suggest that more arrests might mean both better enforcement and fewer problems. The finding that better enforcement leads to fewer problems is one of those research outcomes that seems consistent with “common sense.” Common sense is not always thus confirmed.

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