Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol: Determining an Optimum Sanction

Report No: 71-R13

Published in 1971

About the report:

Numerous elements must be considered in the design of an optimal statutory scheme for the definition and enforcement of the prohibition against driving under the influence of alcohol. Psychological factors determine the extent to which the statute has deterrent effect. Administrative factors affect the ability of police officers and judicial personnel to operate within the statutory framework provided. Political factors are reflected in the community's assessment of the gravity of the offense and the level of apprehension and conviction tolerated. The format for this study is public-opinion, based on responses to a detailed questionnaire concerning various aspects of the driving under the-influence (DWI) problem. Five categories of drivers were questioned: Category (1) No moving violations within the past five years. Category (2) At least one moving violation within the past five years, but no-license revocation or suspension within the last five years. Category (3) At least one license suspension or revocation during the past five years but no suspension or revocation for driving while under the influence of intoxicating beverages. Category (4) At least one license suspension or revocation for driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages during the past five years. Category (5) Judges and commonwealth's attorneys (collectively referred to as the judiciary). In addition to the aforementioned categorization, the responses were demographically separated, based on the respondent's place of residence: country, small town, suburbs, or city. At times, such public opinion is relevant in itself, as in determining what is politically feasible, or in ascertaining the community's assessment of the nature and gravity of the offense. At other times, public opinion is compared with existing scientific data to reveal certain misconceptions that abound with respect to the DWI problem. Positive benefits of public education as regards the misconceptions revealed are explored. Finally, the researchers were able to recommend several revisions in existing statutes and practices based on the information and data revealed in the course of the study.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

W. A. Ames, Eric G. Peters

Last updated: February 9, 2024

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