Citizen Reporting of DUI- Extra Eyes to Identify Impaired Driving

Introduction

Purpose

This report summarizes the evaluation by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) of Montgomery County, Maryland’s citizen reporting program Operation Extra Eyes, under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Task Order “Citizen Reporting of DUI—Extra Eyes to Identify Impaired Driving,” under Contract DTNH22-02-D-95121.

Driving Under the Influence and General Deterrence

Despite the reduction in alcohol-related traffic fatalities over the past two decades, driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) remain a significant problem in the United States. In 2004, 16,694 people died in alcohol-related crashes (NHTSA, 2006a), and an estimated 248,000 people were injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present (NHTSA, 2004). According to the Household Survey on Drug Abuse (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, 2002), 1 in 10 Americans report driving while under the influence of alcohol.

The reduction in alcohol-related fatalities over time (from 60% of all crash fatalities in 1982 to 40% in 2004) can largely be attributed to the passage of several significant legislative pieces. These include lower per se blood alcohol concentration (BAC) laws (e.g., Hingson, Heeren, and Winter, 1994, 1996; Voas, Johnson, and Fell, 1995; Wagenaar, Zobeck, Hingson, and Williams, 1995; Shults et al., 2001), administrative license revocation (ALR) laws (Beirness, Simpson, Mayhew, and Jonah, 1997; Klein, 1989; Voas, Tippetts, and Taylor, 1999; Zador, Lund, Field, and Weinberg, 1988), minimum legal drinking age laws (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1987; Toomey, Rosenfeld, and Wagenaar, 1996), and zero-tolerance laws (Blomberg, 1992; Hingson, Heeren, and Winter 1994; Zwerling and Jones, 1999).

The arrests resulting from enforcement of these impaired driving laws do not necessarily account directly for the reduction in alcohol-related injuries. Rather, publicity and media coverage regarding enforcement, raising public awareness of the risks associated with DUI, and high-visibility enforcement (such as sobriety checkpoints) have affected alcohol- and drug-impaired driving by increasing the sense of risk among prospective impaired drivers. Much of the effectiveness of impaired driving enforcement activity is attributed to general deterrence (Ross, 1984). The awareness that quick, certain, and severe punishments result from DWI events also has contributed to the reduction in impaired driving fatalities (Edwards et al., 1994; Hingson, 1996). The most significant of these factors is the public’s perception of the risk of apprehension (Ross and Voas, 1989).

Citizen Reporting Programs

The concept of citizen reporting of impaired driving has been in place for decades in the United States but has not been carefully evaluated as a separate countermeasure. In its simplest form, citizen reporting has been merely an encouragement to citizens to report suspected impaired driving so that police may be dispatched to look for, evaluate the driving of, and apprehend suspected impaired drivers. For example, in the early 1980s, as a part of a test combining enforcement and public information to deter impaired driving, the Boise Police Department enhanced and publicized the Idaho “Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately” (REDDI) program. This program encouraged citizen reporting using a hotline to the Idaho State Police dispatcher. The

Boise program used press releases, radio public service advertisements (PSAs), and billboards to publicize the program both to encourage citizen reporting and to raise the perceived risk of detection and apprehension by potential impaired drivers. Additionally, the Boise Police Department implemented a procedure in which letters were sent to the registered owners of vehicles reported by citizens to be operated by suspected, but not apprehended, impaired drivers. These letters reported the event and urged responsible behavior in the future (Lacey et al., 1990).

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) included the adoption of the citizen reporting program among its recommendations to State governors in the early 1980s; consequently, 12 additional States adopted REDDI programs, bringing the total to 18 by August 1983. These programs reported 49,719 citizen calls, resulting in 12,070 police contacts and 7,662 DWI arrests. The board said that with such programs, “the detection capabilities of the police have been expanded and the deterrent effect of DUI enforcement programs has been increased” (NTSB, 1984).

REDDI programs still exist and provide variants of the NHTSA DUI detection cues and public reporting procedures. Typically, press releases are issued during the holiday season to remind the public to be on the look out for alcohol-impaired drivers.

Montgomery County, Maryland has adopted an additional, more focused variant of the citizen reporting concept in which private citizens are trained in detection cues and equipped with communication devices so they can report suspected impaired drivers more directly and quickly to the police on scheduled nights. They often are deployed during times of intensified enforcement, such as saturation patrols, allowing police to respond more quickly to potential violations. This activity is often supplemented by student volunteers who are stationed in police vehicles or in arrest processing areas and assist police officers in fulfilling DUI paperwork requirements.

Study Significance and Objectives

Significance

Resources for impaired driving law enforcement are diminishing, mainly due to State budget adjustments as well as officer burnout. To supplement traditional enforcement resources, the Montgomery County Police developed the Operation Extra Eyes program. This innovative program uses community volunteers, not only to provide assistance for impaired driving efforts, but also to demonstrate support to law enforcement.
Although citizen reporting programs are fairly widespread and are thought to be a “good thing,” there is little objective information to justify that opinion. NHTSA initiated a review of citizen reporting programs such as Extra Eyes to assess whether such programs are potentially effective in helping to reduce impaired driving.

Objectives

This study has two main objectives: (1) document the citizen anti-impaired driving activities conducted by law enforcement agencies in Montgomery County, Maryland, and (2) assess the program’s possible effect on impaired driving.