Observational study of the extent of driving while suspended for alcohol impaired driving

McCartt, Anne T. / Geary, Lori L. / Berning, Amy
Injury Prevention
June 2003

A study was undertaken to determine the proportion of first-time alcohol-impaired driving offenders who drive while suspended and the circumstances and motivations for driving. Systematic, unobtrusive observations were conducted by surveillance professionals from Pinkerton Investigative Services, Inc., of first-time offenders in Milwaukee (WI) and Bergen County (NJ). Observations included two 4-hour periods during suspension (one weekday morning, one Friday/Saturday evening) and two 4-hour periods after license reinstatement (matched by day of week and time of day). In all, 1,000 hours of observational data were gathered for 93 subjects (57 in Milwaukee and 36 in Bergen County). Milwaukee subjects had more problematic driving histories and were significantly more likely to drive while suspended. Of subjects observed traveling in some way while suspended, 88% of Milwaukee subjects drove, compared to 36% of Bergen County subjects. Only 5% of Milwaukee subjects had their license reinstated, compared to 78% of Bergen County subjects. Bergen County subjects were significantly more likely to drive after reinstatement than during their suspension, suggesting that the suspension had an impact on the subjects driving patterns. Focus groups, conducted at both sites, indicated that the license suspension represented a much greater hardship for New Jersey offenders than for Milwaukee offenders. New Jersey laws are much stronger, and Bergen County offenders had a much higher perceived risk of apprehension and punishment for driving while suspended.

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