• Center for Problem oriented policing

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Understanding Your Local Problem

The information above is only a generalized description of drunk driving. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing your local problem carefully will help you to design a more effective response strategy.


In addition to criminal justice and alcohol regulatory agencies, the following organizations and entities have an interest in curtailing drunk driving and may be able to make a valuable contribution to efforts to alleviate the problem, both as sources of information on the extent of the problem and as partners in implementing solutions to it:

  • Driver and vehicle licensing bureaus
  • Insurance companies
  • Motor vehicle clubs and associations
  • Drunk driving victims groups
  • Tavern and liquor sales industry groups
  • Alcohol taxation authorities
  • Personal injury attorneys
  • Alcohol dependence assessment and treatment organizations
  • Transportation businesses, such as taxi, limousine, and bus companies
  • Traffic engineering departments
  • Community planning organizations
  • Schools
  • Large employers
  • Emergency medical providers, such as hospital workers and ambulance crews.

Asking the Right Questions

There follow some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your local drunk driving problem. The answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.


  • How many alcohol-related crashes occur in your jurisdiction? In what percentage are one or more of the drivers legally intoxicated?
  • What proportion of all vehicle crashes in your jurisdiction is alcohol-related?
  • What other factors play a significant role in alcohol-related crashes and injuries? Weather? Roadway design? Traffic volume? Seat belt use?
  • How many drunk driving trips do you estimate occur in your jurisdiction? On a typical weekend evening? On a typical weekday evening?
  • In what percentage of crashes does a suspected drunk driver leave the scene before police arrive?
  • What specific driving behaviors commonly cause alcohol-related crashes? Running stop signals? Speeding? Failing to yield the right-of-way? Following too closely? Swerving?
  • What is the typical blood alcohol concentration of at-fault drivers in fatal crashes? Serious injury crashes? Minor injury crashes? Non-injury crashes? Arrests involving no crash?
  • How concerned is the general public about drunk driving?
  • What is the estimated total economic cost to the community for alcohol-related crashes (including, for example, property damage, lost wages, medical or funeral costs, and insurance pay-outs and premium increases)?


  • How many people are killed and injured in alcohol-related crashes?
  • How many and what proportion of crash victims are at-fault drivers? Not-at-fault drivers? Passengers of at-fault drivers? Passengers of not-at-fault drivers? At-fault pedestrians? Not-at-fault pedestrians?
  • What is known about the demographic profile of persons injured in alcohol-related crashes in your jurisdiction? Age? Gender? Race or ethnicity? Employment status? Residence?
  • To what extent were persons injured in alcohol-related crashes also intoxicated?


  • What proportion of persons arrested for drunk driving in your jurisdiction have previously been charged with drunk driving?§
  • What is the driving history of those arrested for drunk driving? Do persons arrested for drunk driving typically have worse driving histories than those not arrested for drunk driving?
  • Are persons arrested for drunk driving also involved in other criminal conduct?
  • What is known about the demographic profile of drunk drivers in your jurisdiction? Age? Gender? Race or ethnicity? Employment status? Residence?
  • How intoxicated are persons arrested for drunk driving?
  • What proportion of arrested drunk drivers were driving while their licenses were suspended or revoked?
§ Note that if state driver histories are purged after a certain time period, the proportion of repeat offenders may be underestimated. 


  • Where do drunk drivers report having done their drinking?
  • Are certain establishments commonly reported as the source of a drunk drivers last drink?
  • Are there certain areas within your jurisdiction where a high proportion of drunk driving or drunk driving arrests occur? If so, what explains this concentration?
  • When does most drunk driving occur? When do most alcohol-related crashes occur? Days of the week? Times of the day? Weeks of the year?

Current Responses to the Problem

  • How many drunk driving arrests are made in your jurisdiction? Has this number changed in recent years?
  • What proportion of drunk driving arrests is reactive (i.e., made as a result of a vehicle crash or citizen complaint)? What proportion is proactive (officer initiated)?
  • How long does it typically take for an officer to process a drunk driving arrest?
  • Which police officers and units make the most drunk driving arrests? Do regular patrol officers place a high priority on drunk driving arrests? Does a special drunk driving enforcement unit exist?
  • In what proportion of drunk driving arrests does the offender refuse to take a blood alcohol test?
  • Do police officers have authority to demand blood alcohol tests of all drivers involved in serious or fatal crashes, or must they first have probable cause to believe that the driver is intoxicated?
  • What are the legal consequences for an offender who refuses to submit to a blood alcohol test?
  • What are the typical sentences imposed on convicted drunk drivers? On first-time offenders? On repeat offenders? On those convicted of vehicular homicide? Do offenders typically comply with the terms of their sentences? Are there legal consequences for failing to comply with court orders?
  • What options are available to a police officer who stops a suspected drunk driver? Is arrest mandatory? Are alternatives to arrest authorized? Do officers resort to alternatives even if not officially authorized? If so, which ones are effective? Can an officer be exposed to civil liability in relation to drunk driving enforcement?

Measuring Your Effectiveness

Measurement will allow you to determine the degree to which your efforts have been successful and can also suggest how your responses can be modified to produce the intended results. Measuring the extent of your problem before you implement remedial responses will allow you to determine how serious the problem is; it will also give you a baseline against which to measure the effectiveness of the strategies that you choose to implement. All remedial measures should be implemented in both the target area and the surrounding area. For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems.

The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to drunk driving:

  • Reduced number of alcohol-related crashes
  • Reduced proportion of all crashes that is alcohol-related
  • Reduced number of injuries and fatalities caused by alcohol-related crashes
  • Reduced proportion of all crashes that result in injuries or fatalities
  • Reduced severity of alcohol-related crash injuries
  • Reduced damage to property from alcohol-related crashes.

Reducing the number of drunk drivers on the roads is an important means of achieving the ultimate objective of reducing the harm caused by drunk driving.

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