Administrative license revocation/administrative license suspension (ALR/ALS) laws, which provide that the license of a driver with a blood alcohol concentration at or over the illegal limit is subject to an immediate suspension by the state department of motor vehicles, are the most widely applied example of a traffic law where the sanction rapidly follows the offense. Since the first state ALR law was enacted by Minnesota in 1978, ALR laws have played an important role in deterring impaired driving. A number of studies have demonstrated the association between the adoption of an ALR law and a reduction in alcohol-related crashes. The power of ALR laws has generally been attributed to how swiftly the sanction is applied. Consequently, little attention has been given to the severity (length of suspension) of the ALR sanction. This is significant because the length of suspension resulting from an ALR citation varies substantially across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Although the swiftness of the sanction application is the major feature of ALR laws, the length of suspension presumably is also significant to their effectiveness. Thus, the significance of suspension length to the effectiveness of the ALR as a deterrent to alcohol-impaired driving remains to be determined. The ALR sentence length can influence alcohol-impaired driving crashes in two ways: (a) through general deterrence by discouraging impaired driving by the general public, and (b) through specific deterrence by immediately preventing the driving of DWI offenders who are at an elevated risk for involvement in future alcohol-impaired-driving crashes and then deterring these DWI offenders from recidivating. To date, no study has attempted to separate these two factors in determining the role of ALR laws in reducing driver crash involvements. This distinction may be of importance to policymakers should our proposed study results demonstrate a strong relationship between the length of suspension and crash rates. Length of license suspension may be more important as a general deterrent to all those who drink and drive compared to those offenders who actually receive the sanction. That distinction could be significant for policymakers. If the effectiveness of such laws is enhanced by increasing the severity of the penalty (e.g., lengthening the period of license suspension), then that action would be attractive to state traffic safety officials and policymakers because lengthening suspension periods would involve little additional expense to state governments.
The specific aims of this study are (a) to determine the relationship of the ALR suspension length to the prevalence of drinking drivers relative to sober drivers in fatal crashes;and (b) to estimate the extent that the relationship is related to the general deterrent effect compared to the specific effect of the ALR law insofar as the ALR suspension length is related to alcohol-impaired driving crash involvements.

Public Health Relevance

Administrative license revocation/suspension (ALR/ALS) laws, which provide that the license of a driver with a blood alcohol concentration at or over the illegal limit is subject to an immediate suspension by the state departments of motor vehicles, is the most widely applied example of a traffic law where the sanction follows rapidly upon the offense. Length of the ALR/ALS license suspension may be more important as a general deterrent to all those who drink and drive compared to offenders who receive the sanction. If the effectiveness of such laws in reducing impaired-driving fatalities is enhanced by increasing the severity of the penalty (e.g., lengthening the period of license suspension), then that action would be attractive to state traffic safety officials and policymakers because lengthening suspension periods would involve very little additional expense to state governments.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Type
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
1R21AA021232-01A1
Application #
8443474
Study Section
Health Services Research Review Subcommittee (AA)
Program Officer
Bloss, Gregory
Project Start
2014-02-10
Project End
2015-01-31
Budget Start
2014-02-10
Budget End
2015-01-31
Support Year
1
Fiscal Year
2014
Total Cost
$234,684
Indirect Cost
$84,684
Name
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation
Department
Type
DUNS #
021883350
City
Beltsville
State
MD
Country
United States
Zip Code
20705