Perceptions of intoxication and impairment at arrest among adults convicted on driving under the influence of alcohol

by Matthew W. Lewis, Jon Merz, Ron D. Hays, Ronald Nicholas


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Making the decision to drive after drinking potentially involves assessing personal levels of intoxication and impairment. This paper reports driving under the influence (DUI) convictees' recalled perceptions of their intoxication, impairment, and reported blood alcohol concentration (BAC) on the day or night of their arrest. Respondents' recalled levels of intoxication and impairment corresponded to their reported BAC across self-labeled categories of drinking patterns. No significant differences in these perceptions were found by gender or age. A factor analysis revealed, among other things, a factor for "cogent risk-taking" on the part of many drivers: People were aware of their level of intoxication and impairment and still drove. The authors propose a simple model of the stages and decisions leading to a DUI episode. The authors conclude by examining how the data informs the model and by discussing directions for future research and potential future interventions.

Originally published in: Journal of Drug Issues, v. 25, no. 1, pp. 141-160 .

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