Abstract graphic representing researchthe problem

Research about impaired driving, victim involvement in the criminal justice system, and intermediate sanctioning helps shape public policy and programming to the betterment of victims and offenders. The following information addresses the need for Victim Impact Panels and may be useful to you as you seek support for your panel program.

impaired driving research

Impaired driving is one of the most common causes for arrest in the United States. Approximately 10% of all arrests are for driving under the influence of alcohol above the state legal limit. (Greenfield, L. 1998. Alcohol and Crime: An Analysis of National Data on the Prevalence of Alcohol Involvement in Crime. NCJ-16832. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics)

15,786 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes in 1999, an average of one death every 33 minutes. These deaths constitute approximately 38% of total traffic fatalities. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA]. August 2000. Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation)

More than one million people are injured in alcohol-related traffic crashes each year. These injuries occur once every 30 seconds. (Ibid.)

In many jurisdictions, jail time for first-time offenders, while statutorily allowed, is not possible. Jail and prison over-crowding is a major problem in nearly every state. (Bureau of Justice Statistics [BJA]. 1999. Report to the Nation on Crime and Justice. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice)

On an average day in 1996, corrections authorities supervised an estimated 5.3 million convicted offenders. Nearly 2 million (about 36%) had been drinking when they committed their offense. (Bureau of Justice Statistics [BJA]. April 1998. Alcohol and Crime. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice)

Convicted impaired drivers comprise the largest category of probationers in most jurisdictions. An estimated 62% of probationers convicted of all crimes were drinking at the time of their offense. Of those probationers, approximately two-thirds had previously participated in an alcohol treatment program. (Bureau of Justice Statistics [BJA]. April 1998. Alcohol and Crime. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice)

Repeat DUI offenders compromise a small but important percentage of drivers involved in traffic crashes. Unfortunately, there is very little data on the actual magnitude of the problem. Data from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) suggests that 2-3% of those in all fatal crashes in America (including both alcohol-related and non-alcohol-related crashes) were repeat offenders. Data from the State of California suggest that the percentage of repeat offenders in fatal alcohol-related crashes could be more in the 8% range. It is possible that individual states have data that indicate that repeat offenders represent a much larger percentage of the problem. The FARS data is limited to a 3-year “look back” of driving offenses, thus limiting the data sample. Some states, however, have 5-year, 10-year, or even longer “look-back” periods and thus they may show a larger repeat offender problem. (State of Knowledge of Alcohol-Impaired Driving - Research on Repeat DWI Offenders, NHTSA, March 2000, DOT HS 809 027).

The 1983 Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving objected to diversion programs on the grounds that they delay both the disposition of the criminal case and the license restrictions, and that their effectiveness cannot be demonstrated. Robert Borkenstein from the Center for Studies of Law and Action at Indiana University agrees:

To decrease the role of alcohol in traffic crashes, new ideas are required. We seem to have nearly exhausted the effectiveness of those that exist. As we develop new ideas, we must be sure they are inspired, not simply clusters of fading impressions. As Frances Bacon said, "He who does not seek new remedies can expect new evils, for time is the greatest innovator."

(Borkenstein, R. F. 1987. An Historical Survey of Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety - Research Highlights. In: Noordzig, P.C. & Roszbach, R. (eds) Alcohol, Drugs, and Public Safety. Unk: Elseiver Science Publishers: 51-60)

intermediate sanctions research

Evaluations have been conducted of community service, intensive supervision, boot camps, house arrest, electronic monitoring and day-reporting centers. (Douglas McDonald 1986. Punishment Without Walls: Community Service Sentences in New York City. New Brunswisk, NJ: Rutgers University Press; Joan Petersiilia and Susan Turner. "Intensive Probation and Parole." In Crime and Justice: A Review of Research Vol. 17. Ed. Michael Tonry [1993]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 281-235; Doris Oayton MacKenzie and C. Sosuryal. Multi-Site Evaluation of Shock Incarceration. Report to the National Institute of Justice [1994]. College Park MD: University of Maryland, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice)

An analysis of 1,419 impaired driving studies found that a combination of programs -- license sanctioning with education, counseling, contact probation, self-help groups, and medication -- reduced recidivism by 8%. (Wells-Parker, E. July 1995. " Final Results From a Meta-Analysis of Remedial Interventions with DUI Offenders" Addiction)

Many intermediate sanctions draw offenders from two pools: those who would have received regular probation and those who would have received imprisonment if the intermediate sanction did not exist. Even if some intermediate sanctions lower recidivism rates for the first group, they may raise recidivism rates for the second group: members of which may commit new crimes during the time they would have been incarcerated. A balanced measure of crime control must consider recidivism rates for both groups and use total recidivism rates to assess the impact of intermediate sanctions. (Parent, D., Dunworth, T., McDonald, D, and Rhondes, W. January 1997. "Key Legislative Issues in Criminal Justice: Intermediate Sanctions" Research in Action. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice)

Jeremy Travis, Director of the National Institute of Justice, and Nancy Gist, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, point out that intermediate sanctions that previously held hope for reducing recidivism, corrections costs and prison use have been unsuccessful. They believe the failures are the result of technical violations and net widening, which is sentencing offenders who otherwise would have received less-punitive probation to the programs. The key, they say, is to ensure that programs are used for the right kind of offenders. (National Institute of Justice [NIJ] May 1997. Intermediate Sanctions in Sentencing Guidelines. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance)

NHTSA has conducted numerous studies examining the effectiveness of sanctioning programs (e.g., jail, community service, electronic monitoring, intensive probation supervision, day reporting center, and vehicle impoundment). As Jones and Lacey concluded in their 2000 review of the literature on repeat DWI offenders:

Sanctions classified as alternative sanctions appeared especially effective, offering potential reductions in recidivism in the 15% to 90% range. License suspension or revocation combined with treatment continues to look effective, with the potential for reducung recidivism by as much as 50%.

one solution

Education and treatment programs are more successful when used as supplements rather than alternatives to jail, license suspension or other legal sanctions. MADD has never suggested that Victim Impact Panels replace conventional strategies such as administrative license suspension, .08 per se laws, and zero tolerance laws which have been proven effective. Instead they are designed to enhance and supplement statutory sanctions.

Increasing an offender's knowledge of the negative consequences of a behavior, particularly one that is habitual or addictive, is seldom effective. Current educational programs are simply incapable of producing attitudinal and behavioral changes.

In order for the Victim Impact Panel program to succeed, attitudes will change when first-hand knowledge is received. When attitudes do not change, behavior does not change. Research on the psychology of learning indicates that attitudes change when a person's thoughts and emotions are engaged. A person who has become sad is more easily persuaded by a compelling argument than is a person in a happy mood. Hence, a victim sharing his or her life experience is more likely to stir the listener's emotions than an educator imparting knowledge.

additional research

Mann, R.E., Leigh, G., Vingilis, E.R., and De Genova, K.A. 1983. "Critical Review of the Effectiveness of Drinking-Driving Rehabilitation Programs" Accident Analysis and Prevention 15[6], 441-461.

McKnight, A.J. and Voas, R.B. 1991. "The Effect of License Suspension Upon DWI Recidivism" Alcohol, Drugs, and Driving 7[1], 43-54.

Sadler, D., Perrine, M., and Peck, R.C. 1991. "The Long-Term Traffic Impact of a Pilot Alcohol Abuse Program as an Alternative to License Suspension." Accident Analysis and Prevention 23[4], 2.

Wells-Parker, E. July 1995. " Final Results From a Meta-Analysis of Remedial Interventions with DUI Offenders" Addiction.

Jacobs. J.B. 1989. Drunk Driving: An American Dilemma. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Keane, C., Maxim, P.S., and Teevan, J.J. 1993. "Drinking and Driving, Self Control, and Gender: Testing a General Theory of Crime. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 30, 30-46.

Bodenhausen, G.V. 1993. "Emotions, Arousal, and Stereotypic Judgments." In D. Mackie and D. Hamilton [Eds]. Affect, Cognition, and Stereotyping. San Diego: Academic Press, 13-17.

Sinclair, R.C. 1988. "Categorization Breadth and Performance Appraisal: The Effects of Order of Information Acquisition and Affective State on Halo, Accuracy, Information Retrieval, and Evaluations. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 42, 22-46.

Blerss, H., Bohner, G., and Strack, F. 1990. "Mood and Persuasion: A Cognitive Response Analysis" 16[2], 331-345.

Goetz, Angus G. Jr., J.D., Chair of the State Bar of Michigan. 9/3/92. Opinion Letter.

Nochajski, T., Miller, B., Wieczorek, W., and Whitney, R. June 1993. "The Effects of a Drinker-Driver Treatment Program: Does Criminal History Make a Difference?" Criminal Justice and Behavior 20(2), 174-189.

Shinar, D. and Compton, R. 1995. "Victim Impact Panels: Their Impact on DWI Recidivism" Alcohol, Drugs and Driving 11(1), Los Angeles: UCLA Brain Information Service/Brain Research Institute, 73-87.

Nathanson, I.L. and O'Rourke, K.S. 1996. "The Relationship Between Victim Impact Panels and DWI Recidivism: A Study of the Influence of Offender's Age and Criminal History on Program Effect." Nassau County, New York Traffic Safety Board and Probation Department.

March 2000. 1999 Traffic Crashes, Injuries, and Fatalities: Preliminary Report. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Yu, J., Essex, D., and Williford, W. 1992. "DWI/DWAI Offenders and Recidivism by Gender in the Eighties: A Changing Trend," The International Journal of the Addictions 27(6), 637-647.

Yu, J. and Williford, W. 1993. "Problem Drinking and High-Risk Driving: An Analysis of Official and Self-Reported Drinking-Driving in New York State," Addiction 88, 219-228.

Satterfield-McLeod, C. April 1989. "An Evaluation of the Washington County Victim Panel for Intoxicated Drivers" Washington County, Oregon Sheriff's Department.

O'Laughlin, L.H. 1990. "Drunk Driving: The Effects of the Clackamas County DUII Victim Impact Panel on Recidivism Rates" Portland Oregon: Unpublished manuscript.

Sprang, G. 1990. "Analysis of Pre and Post-Test Responses to Victim Impact Panel: November 1989 through March 1990" Report for MADD, Dallas County Chapter.

Holden, K., Moberg, D.P., and Garb, B. Spring 1993. "Victim Impact Panels: An Evaluation" Study funded by a grant to the Center for Health Policy and Program Evaluation, Section 408, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Badovinac, K. 1994. "The Effects of Victim Impact Panels on Attitudes and Intentions Regarding Impaired Driving" Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education 39[3], 113-118.

Fors, S. W. and Rojek, D. G. July 1999. "The Effect of Victim Impact Panels on DUI/DWI Rearrest Rates: A Twelve-Month Follow-Up." Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 514-520.

Woodall, W. Gill. July 24, 1996. Personal Correspondence to Janice Lord, Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

1986. "Final Report: President's Task Force on Victims of Crime" Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

Pennebaker, J. W. 1993. "Social Mechanisms of Constraint" In D.M. Wegner & J.W. Pennebacker [Eds.] Handbook of Mental Control. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 200-219.

Rando, T.A. 1993. Treatment of Complicated Mourning. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

Stylanios, S.K. & Vachon, M.L.S. 1993. "The Role of Social Support in Bereavement.” In M.S. Stroebe, W. Stroebe, & R. O. Hansson [Eds.] Handbook of Bereavement. New York: Cambridge University Press, 397.

Amick-McMullen, A., Kilpatrick, D., Veronen, L.J., and Smith, S. 1989. "Family Survivors of Homicide Victims: Theoretical Perspectives and an Exploratory Study." Journal of Traumatic Stress, 2[1], 21-33.

Mercer, D., Lorden, R., and Lord, J. Winter 1999. "Victim Impact Panels: A Healing Opportunity for Victims of Drunk Driving Crashes,” MADDVOCATE, 8-9.

Jones, R.K. and Lacey, J.H. 1998b. Evaluation of an Individualized Sanctioning Program for DWI Offenders. DOT HS 808 842. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Jones, R.K. and Lacey, J.H. 1999. Evaluation of a Day Reporting Center for Repeat DWI Offenders. DOT HS 808 989. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Jones, R.K. and Lacey, J.H. 2000. State of Knowledge of Alcohol-Impaired Driving: Research on Repeat DWI Offenders. DOT HS 809 027. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Jones, R.K., Wiliszowski, C., and Lacey, J.H. 1996. Evaluation of Alternative Programs for Repeat DWI Offenders. DOT HS 808 493. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Deterrent Effects of Mandatory License Suspension for DWI. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, June 1987, DOT HS 807 138.

An Evaluation of Community Service as a Sanction for DWI: The Baton Rouge Community Service Work Program. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, October 1987; DOT HS 807 200.

Field Evaluation of Jail Sanctions for DWI. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, April 1988, DOT HS 807 325.

Users’ Guide to New Approaches and Sanctions for Multiples DWI Offenders, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, December 1989, DOT HS 807 571.

Review of the Literature Evaluating the Effect of Countermeasures to Reduce Alcohol-Impaired Driving, Volume I. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, October 1991, DOT HS 808 023.

Assessment of Impoundment and Forfeiture Laws for Drivers Convicted of DUI, Phase II Report: Evaluation of the Oregon and Washington Vehicle Plate Zebra Sticker Laws, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, April 1994, DOT HS 808 136.

Evaluation of Alternative Programs for Repeat DWI Offenders. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, October 1996, DOT HS 808 493.


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