Drunk Driving (A BJS Report)

Drunk Driving (A BJS Report)

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1992). "Drunk Driving (A BJS Report)." Alaska Justice Forum 9(3): 2-3 (Fall 1992). More than half the persons in local jails charged with the offense of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in 1989 had prior sentences to incarceration for DWI offenses. This article examines characteristics of persons in local jails arrested or convicted of DWI drawn from the 1989 Bureau of Justice Statistics' Survey of Inmates of Local Jails. Based on the BJS report "'Drunk Driving," NCJ-134728.

More than half the persons in local jails charged with the offense of driving while intoxicated with alcohol (DWI) in 1989 had prior sentences to incarceration for DWI offenses. About one in six persons jailed for DWI had served at least three prior sentences in jail or prison for drunk driving.

This report examines the characteristics of arrested or convicted persons who were confined in local jails in 1989 and who had been charged with DWI. The findings were obtained from the 1989 Bureau of Justice Statistics Survey of Inmates of Local Jails, which gathered extensive data from interviews conducted by the Bureau of the Census with a nationally representative sample of 5,675 inmates in 424 jails during the summer of 1989. The sample was drawn to represent an estimated 395,000 jail inmates in 3,312 local jails on June 30, 1989. (Note: The findings from the Bureau of the Census interviews reflect only those jailed, not all arrested or charged with DWI.)

Data on arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants (DUI) were drawn from Uniform Crime Reports provided by state and local police agencies to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

(DUI is the general term for drivers who operate a motor vehicle after having consumed an intoxicant such as drugs or alcohol; DWI, in this study, specifically refers to jail inmates who were charged with driving while intoxicated by alcohol, usually defined by state law as a specific concentration of alcohol in the blood.)

Other major findings include the following:

• Between 1980 and 1989 the number of arrests nationwide for DUI increased nearly 22 per cent, while the number of licensed drivers increased 14 per cent.

• Over the period from 1980 to 1989 the number of DUI arrests per 100,000 licensed drivers grew by nearly seven per cent from 982 per 100,000 to 1,049.

Table 1. Number of Licensed Drivers, Number of Arrests for DUI, and Rate of Arrest for DUI, 1980-1989

Table 2. Percentage Distribution of Licensed Drivers and Arrests for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), by Age, 1980 and 1989

• Since 1983 all states that permitted the sale or purchase of alcoholic beverages under age 21 have phased in new laws raising the minimum age to 21. Per capita arrest rates for DUI for persons age 18 to 20 have decreased by 21 per cent since then-more than twice the rate of the decrease among those age 21 to 24 (9.9%).

• On June 30, 1989, about nine per cent of all persons confined in local jails were charged with or convicted of DWI.

• In 1989, 96 per cent of persons in jail for DWI were male; their median age was 32; and they reflected a racial distribution similar to the adult general population. At the time of their arrest, more than 70 per cent were not living with a spouse and 78 per cent were employed.

• Nearly nine out of ten jail inmates (86 per cent) charged with or convicted of a DWI offense had a prior sentence to probation, jail, or prison for a DWI offense or other offense. (See above note.)

Table 3. Characteristics of Jail Inmates, by Type of Offense, 1989

• Of convicted DWI offenders in local jails, 61 per cent reported drinking only beer, about 2 per cent only wine, 18 per cent only liquor, and 20 per cent had been drinking more than one type of beverage prior to their arrest.

• When the type and amount of beverages are converted into equivalent units of pure alcohol (ethanol), convicted DWI offenders who reported drinking more than one type of beverage consumed nearly three times the quantity of ethanol of those who drank only beer.

• Prior to their arrest for DWI, half of the convicted offenders in jails were estimated to have consumed at least six ounces of ethanol (about equal to the alcohol content of 12 bottles of beer) in about five hours. About 29 per cent reported that they had consumed at least eleven ounces of ethanol (equivalent to about 22 beers) prior to their arrest.

• Those jail inmates convicted of DWI who consumed greater than average quantities of ethanol prior to arrest reported a greater frequency of usual drinking sessions, as reported by the inmates, and greater consumption of alcohol than other inmates.

• For DWI offenders sentenced to jail, the median term imposed was six months; those with two or more prior DWI sentences received sentences that were more than oneand- one-half times as long as firsttime DWI offenders.

• About 80 per cent of all inmates in jail for DWI who admitted to being alcoholics had previously been involved in an alcohol abuse treatment program.

This article was based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics report "Drunk Driving," NCJ-134728. Copies of the complete report are available through the Alaska Justice Statistical Analysis Unit of the Justice Center.