How Does Habitual Drinking Influence DUI Rates?

If you had to guess who is most likely to drink and drive, who would choose? A young person or an older one? A habitual drinker or someone who only drinks on occasion? For most people, the natural choice is a habitual or binge drinker, since drinking very large amounts or drinking frequently increases the number of opportunities to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. However, that guess would be incorrect.

Who Drinks And Drives?

Among those who admit to getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, moderate drinkers are the most heavily represented. More than half of self-professed drunk drivers only have 1-4 drinks per week. Meanwhile, only about 7% of those who admit to drinking and driving have more than 16 drinks per week. Perhaps more surprisingly, though, about 10% more people ages 35 to 51 admit to drinking and driving than those ages 18 to 34, who are often thought to be more erratic and irresponsible,


Understanding who is most likely to drink and drive can help us shape more effective prevention policies and direct support to those who need it most. We can’t address what we don’t understand, and we are woefully underinformed about the people behind DUI convictions.

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A Gendered Behavior

In addition to varying by age and amount of drinking, driving while intoxicated is also a gendered behavior; men are more likely to get behind the wheel after having a few drinks, which may have something to do with their slightly greater tolerance. Generally, experts consider it safe for men to drink as many as 4 alcoholic beverages a day, with low-risk behavior consumption of 14 or fewer drinks per week. Women are considered to be at risk for alcohol-related problems at 7 drinks, or half as many drinks per week as men.

Evaluating And Deterring Risky Behaviors

While understanding the conditions under which people drink and drive is important, the most pressing issue is how we can prevent this behavior because alcohol and motor vehicles don’t mix. According to the CDC, 10,497 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 2016, accounting for more than a quarter of traffic deaths. That’s thousands of preventable deaths, and many thousands more gravely injured, but there are solutions.

One group with a keen understanding of just how devastating drinking and driving can be is personal injury attorneys. As advocates for victims’ rights, these professionals work with injured parties and their families to gain compensation for injuries, pay medical bills, and more. Additionally, many lawyers like the Pensacola-based team at Ward & Barnes assist clients in seeking punitive damages as recourse for injuries, pain and suffering, and to cover future needs.

Punitive damages can serve as a deterrent, but as with most criminal actions, perpetrators rarely think about the consequences – and this is particularly true when it comes to drinking and driving. Everyone who gets behind the wheel assumes they’ll be fine this one time. But then one time becomes a habit and people get hurt. That’s why it’s important to prevent people from repeating this behavior, and CBT can help.

A Change In Thinking

CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is a therapeutic strategy with a range of applications. Of particular interest, though, is a recent study performed in Los Angeles in which researchers found that first-time DUI offenders who received 12 weeks of CBT as opposed to a standard non-CBT group counseling program were significantly less likely to have repeated the offense at both the 4- and 10-month follow-ups. At the 4-month mark, CBT recipients were 63% less likely to have driven while intoxicated compared to the standard group therapy recipients, and 71% less likely to have done so after 10 months.

The research into CBT as a DUI deterrent is new, but it’s just one of a number of promising strategies for making our roads safer. What we do know, though, is that what we’re doing now – fines and license suspensions, even jail time – doesn’t work. Alternative punishments and forms of remediation are the only ways to make our roads safer.

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