One recent study examined victim impact statements and their ability to reduce repeat offenses of drunk driving (Rojek, 1999).
The study looked at those who had been arrested and convicted of drunk driving in which an accident occurred. It examined those who had been rearrested after being in attendance for a victim impact statement program and compared them to those who had been rearrested but had never been exposed to a victim impact statement program.
The study concluded that those who had been exposed to a victim impact statement with regard to their offense had a lower rearrest rate than those who had not heard victim impact statements.
The study examined the results of those who did not receive victim impact statements and found that legal punishment was often the only consequence of driving while under the influence (Rojek, 1999).
By contrast, VIPs address the emotional component of the DUI offender's cognitive perspective by exposing him/her to the pain or suffering caused by drunk driving. The dramatic presentations of panel members (usually three to five persons) who had been victimized by a drunken driver have been shown to influence behavioral intentions and, in some cases, drunk driving behavior (Rojek, 1999)."
In looking at the impact of drinking and driving in America it is important to compare it to other nations.
In Great Britain 26% of traffic fatalities are caused by drunk drivers, while Ontario, Canada has more than 12,000 drunk driving incidents each year.
Overall statistics indicate that the European incidence of fatalities due to drunk driving is 20% with numbers in the U.S. quickly approaching 40% (Newaz, 2006).
American employers lose a total of nine billion dollars annually as a direct result of employers being involved with drunk driving incidences.
The United States is the only nation on earth that uses field sobriety tests to prove someone has been driving while impaired though research indicates that the tests do not conclusively prove or disprove intoxication.
Given the drawbacks of field sobriety tests, including reliance "on subjective definitions of impairment... making the arrest and successful prosecution of inebriated drivers difficult," the United States has much to learn from the international community regarding how to effectively and fairly regulate the incidence of drunk driving (Newaz, 2006)."
The problem of drunk driving is two fold. It must involved law enforcement as well societal pressures so that the person thinks twice before drinking and getting behind the wheel.
Law enforcement officers continue to enforce the laws and become frustrated as they run into the same offenders in the street time and time again. Laws that punish are necessary to appease society however, it is the combination of education, socially-based programs and laws that has the best chance of deterring drunk driving.
Research has shown that a 30 to 40% of all accident fatalities in this country are caused by a drunk driver. In addition there is a nine billion deficit for employers nationwide each year due to drunk driving issues. Families are destroyed, lives are disrupted and children of drunk drivers often grow up to become drunk drivers as well. All of these consequences underscore the importance of addressing the issue from both a sociological standpoint and a legal standpoint.
Past attempts to handle drunk driving as a purely legal issue have failed as indicted by the results and statistics. Efforts to make it a purely social issue will also fail as society demands and deserves restitution for the actions of drunk drivers.
The time has come to combine the two elements to provide a comprehensive and encompassing solution for the problem of drunk drivers. Alcoholism is an addiction however, the decision not to get help is seen as a choice by society. The legal system has the ability to mandate treatment and perhaps save the drunk driver as well as those he would have encountered on the road.
BADOVINAC, K. (1994)The effects of victim impact panels on attitudes and intentions regarding impaired driving. J. Alcohol Drug Educ. 39 (3): 113-118, 1994.
BRAITHWAITE,(1989) J. Crime, Shame and Reintegration, New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989.
FORS, S. AND ROJEK, D. (1997) DUI offenders' reactions to a required victim impact panel intervention, Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 1997, unpublished report.
Mejeur, Jeanne (2003) Still driving drunk: strict drunk driving laws don't do much good unless they are vigorously enforced. From: State Legislatures
Newaz, Daphne D. (2006) The impaired dual system framework of United States drunk-driving law: how international perspectives yield more sober results. Houston Journal of…