The perceived probability of being arrested for driving under suspension
was lower among Milwaukee participants than among New Jersey participants.
Most Milwaukee participants believed that the police do not stop vehicles
unless the driver gives them a reason. One said that the biggest risk
is getting into a crash that is not your fault. One participant described
being nervous even when driving with his occupational license. After
being hit from behind by another driver, he told the driver, "This
is your lucky day, buddy. Let's just forget about it."
|Although many were nervous when they drove illegally,
they reasoned that if they were careful, they probably would not
get caught. Few were aware of the penalties for driving while suspended
for OWI. Nearly all Milwaukee participants had, at least occasionally,
assumed the risks of detection for driving while suspended or beyond
the terms of their occupational license. None had been caught.
In contrast, most New Jersey participants perceived that it is very
risky to drive while under suspension for DWI. There was general agreement
that they would be more likely than not to be arrested if they continued
their normal driving through their suspension. One participant, who
had been convicted of driving while suspended for DWI, said that she
would not even risk turning the motor over in the driveway to keep the
battery from going flat. Several expressed the belief that the police
target persons who are convicted of DWI. One said, "You have to
understand that many of us live in small towns where we are known to
local police." Another commented that most police have computers
that enable them to check driving records of cars they are following.
Members of one focus group were shocked when a teenaged participant
admitted that she had occasionally driven while suspended.
Most New Jersey participants also were well aware of the consequences
of getting caught - an additional two years of suspension and the possibility
of jail time. Even the few who thought there was only a slight probability
of getting caught were deterred from driving by the severity of the
The reality in New Jersey may match the perception. Three participants
had been arrested for driving while suspended for DWI. One was arrested
while suspended for her current DWI when she drove her landlord's car
a couple of blocks. She thought she would be safe in someone else's
car, but a neighborhood patrol officer recognized her and knew she had
been suspended. As a result of this incident, her suspension was extended
until 2003. Two other participants were convicted for driving while
suspended for previous DWI convictions occurring more than 10 years
prior to the current offense.
Although most members of the New Jersey groups perceived the risks
and consequences to be great, many were not deterred entirely from driving.
With coaxing by the moderator, it was determined that four of seven
participants in one group, and five of seven in another group, had driven
at some point while under their current suspension. (No count was taken
in the third group.) Two participants even admitted to having driven
after drinking during their current suspension. The three drivers under
21 years of age were among those who had driven during their suspension.
|In summary, New Jersey participants were generally
more fearful about driving while under suspension than participants
in Milwaukee. The proportion of participants who drove illegally
in the two groups, however, was not dramatically different. It was
difficult to discern whether participants in the two sites differed
in terms of the frequency with which they drove while suspended.
Three of the five Milwaukee participants who did not get an occupational
license admitted to occasional driving; of 14 New Jersey participants
who were asked directly if they drove while suspended, nine admitted
that they had done so on at least one occasion. With the exception
of one Milwaukee driver, who basically ignored his suspension, the
reported frequency of illegal driving (that is, either outside the
restrictions of the occupational license or with a suspended license)
was limited in both sites.