Avoiding Drunk Drivers: The Level and Sources of Protective Behavior

By Applegate, Brandon K.; Cullen, Francis T. et al. | Violence and Victims, January 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Avoiding Drunk Drivers: The Level and Sources of Protective Behavior


Applegate, Brandon K., Cullen, Francis T., Richards, Pamela J., Lanza-Kaduce, Loan, Link, Bruce G., Violence and Victims


Drunk driving has been a concern for a decade and a half, with most discussions of its control centering on offenders. Research on the extent to which citizens engage in behaviors to avoid becoming victims of drunk drivers, however, is in short supply. This project examines the level of participation in protective behaviors, and it assesses the potential sources of self- and other-protection. Our findings indicate that substantial proportions of citizens take action to protect themselves and others from victimization by drunk drivers. We also find limited support for the fear/victimization model and no support for a collective security explanation of protective behavior.

Although drunk driving was recognized as a potential problem beginning with the development of automotive transportation, it has sparked deep concern only for the past decade and a half. When groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID) began forcefully mounting campaigns against driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in the early 1980s, public concern was brought to the forefront (see Jacobs, 1989; Reinarman, 1988). Since that time, researchers and public commentators have wrestled with the best ways to reduce the harms caused by DUI.

Discussions on confronting drunk driving, however, typically have focused on offenders. Efforts to increase legal deterrence have characterized much of our approach to drunk driving, and extensive studies have produced somewhat mixed results on its effectiveness (see Donovan, 1989; Grasmick, Bursik, & Arneklev, 1993; Green, 1989; Ross, 1984,1993). As a result of the potentially limited utility of deterrence, Ross (1992) and others (Ball & Lilly, 1986; Donovan, 1989; Farrell, 1989; Jacobs, 1988,1989) have advanced arguments for a broad social policy approach that would reduce the deaths and injuries associated with drunk driving.

Despite the attention devoted to drinking and driving, research is in short supply that examines the extent to which citizens engage in preventative behaviors to avoid victimization by drunk drivers. Our study seeks to examine the actions that citizens take to protect themselves and others. We should note that self-protection and other-protection both are potentially relevant to the reduction of drunk driving fatalities and injuries. As Ross (1992, p. 170) observes, far too many innocent bystanders become the victims of drunk drivers, but drunk drivers and their passengers also constitute over half of those killed in DUI accidents. To the extent that the public recognizes that drunk drivers kill and injure themselves as well as others, participation in protective activities may be oriented toward several potential victims.

Beyond examining the degree to which people participate in activities aimed at avoiding drunk-driving victimization, we also explore the potential sources of these behaviors. We assess whether self-protection varies by demographic characteristics, and we examine two models of crime prevention that have been used to account for the actions that people take to prevent victimization. These models and their relevance to the current project are discussed in the following section.

MODELS OF PROTECTIVE BEHAVIOR

Whether it is called "crime prevention," "self-protection," or "self-help," research clearly shows that citizens participate in a variety of activities aimed at reducing their risk of victimization by crime (see Skogan, 1986). Two theses that have been proposed to explain why some people participate in various protective behaviors are "collective security" (McDowall & Loftin 1983) and crime fear and victimization (see Wright, Rossi, & Daly, 1983).

First, the collective security hypothesis contends that people are more likely to take steps to prevent victimization when their confidence in the ability of formal and informal agencies to provide protection is low (McDowall & Loftin, 1983). …

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