Potential for the Use of Psychological and Situational Factors in the Targeting of Drink-Drive Countermeasures

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #108 - 1996

Author: W. Harrison

Full report in .pdf format [365KB]

Abstract:

Data collected by the Victoria Police at the time an alleged drink-driving offender undergoes an evidential breath test were analysed to investigate the possibility that certain situational and psychological factors might be associated with drink-driving. The focus of the analysis was the potential for the situational and psychological characteristics associated with drink-driving to be used to target drink-drive countermeasures more effectively in the Victorian context where there are already relatively high levels of enforcement and supporting publicity.

Analysis of the personality data identified five groups of drink-drivers with personality orientations that were over-represented in the drink-driver sample compared to the level expected based on population norms. These groups were then compared to other drink-drivers to further describe them in terms of the situational data collected by the Police. Tentative conclusions are drawn about the likely effects of countermeasures on each of the defined groups of drink drivers.

Executive Summary:

In the context of the relatively high levels of drink-drive enforcement and public education campaigns in Victoria, the continued drink-drive behaviour of some drivers suggests that there may be some characteristics shared by some offenders which reduce the impact of current countermeasures. The common characteristics of these drink drivers may, if identified, lead to further developments in the effective targeting of countermeasures. This project sought to investigate this possibility.

Data collected by the Victoria Police at the time an alleged drink-driving offender undergoes an evidential breath test were analysed to investigate the possibility that certain situational and psychological factors might be associated with drink-driving. The Police collect demographic data which includes the location, day of week, and time of day of the offence as well as the age and the occupation of the alleged offender. The focus of the analysis was the potential for the situational and psychological characteristics associated with drink-driving to be used to target drink-drive countermeasures more effectively in the Victorian context.

In part, the results indicate:

  • Rural drink-drivers were marginally younger than metropolitan drink drivers.
  • Male drink-drivers were more likely than female drink drivers to be unlicensed or to have had their licence cancelled for some reason. Twenty percent of male drink drivers were unlicensed or disqualified from driving.
  • Rural drink-drivers were more likely than metropolitan drink drivers to be unlicensed or disqualified from driving.
  • Rural drink drivers were more likely than metropolitan drink drivers to consume alcohol prior to the offence at a hotel or at home.

Using a theory of the relationship between some personality characteristics and occupation, drink-drive offenders from the period 1992-1995 were assigned occupational codes which were taken to reflect some aspects of their personality in so far as personality is expressed in occupational choice.

Analysis of the personality data identified five groups of drink-drivers who had personality orientations that were over-represented in the drink-driver sample compared to the level expected based on population norms. These groups were then compared to other drink-drivers to further describe them in terms of the situational data collected by the Police.

The Holland model of personality and occupation, as used in the present context, would allow the identification of thirty separate groups of drink drivers based on personality characteristics. Ale identification of five of these groups as potentially over-represented groups highlights the potential for further targeting of drink-drive countermeasures.

The five groups identified in this way were:

  • Male drink-drivers characterised as acquisitive, adventurous, energetic, extroverted, and socially oriented. This group tended to drink-drive in the Melbourne area at restaurants or clubs and were more likely to be fully licensed. This group would not be strongly influenced by enforcement-related programs but would be influenced by campaigns that stress the social-leadership values of this group.
  • Male drink-drivers characterised as asocial, conforming, reserved, introspective, unpopular, unimaginative, and defensive. This group tended to be detected in rural areas after drinking at hotels or at home. They were more likely to have licence problems and were more likely to have higher BACs than other drink-drivers. It is argued that any programs addressed to this group would need to be concrete and would need to specify the desired behaviour clearly, with role-modelling approaches likely to be beneficial. This group is unlikely to be affected by enforcement-related methods.
  • Female drink-drivers characterised as asocial, inflexible, uninsightful, careful, conforming and inhibited. This group tends to drink drive more in rural areas than other female drink drivers. It is argued that role-model based media campaigns and a strong emphasis on the concrete consequences of offending would be beneficial for this group.
  • Female drink-drivers characterised as socially oriented, careful, orderly, and defensive. This group was represented across all situational variables investigated here. It is argued that campaigns that emphasise the social consequences of drink-driving would be beneficial.
  • Female drink-drivers characterised as socially oriented, adventurous, energetic, and optimistic. This group was not differentiated from other female drink drivers in terms of the situational variables investigated here. It is argued that campaigns emphasising the social-leadership values of this group would be beneficial, and that this group is unlikely to be affected by enforcement-related campaigns.

The data relating to female drink drivers is less reliable than that relating to males as the sample of females was relatively small and it is generally considered that the link between personality and occupation used in the analysis of the data is less certain for females than for males.

More generally, the data analysis is somewhat speculative as it uses the personality-occupation link in a novel way and uses a relatively small sample of drink-drivers with a relatively small number of relevant variables for each drink-driver. The population norms used to link occupations and personality in the drink driving sample are norms from a young adult sample, and while there is known to be a strong relationship between personality as expressed in occupational choice throughout the lifespan of the individual, the appropriateness of the norms for the present sample is still cause for concern. There is a need to conduct further research in this area to validate the tentative conclusions reached so far.

The potential for targeting specific groups of drink-drivers in Victoria's relatively high-enforcement context is considerable. Drivers who are prepared to drink-drive in this context are probably less likely to be influenced by further, simple increases in enforcement levels without consideration to the specific characteristics of these drivers that lead them either to ignore the risks associated with drink-driving or to remain unaffected by the potential negative consequences. Increased understanding of the characteristics of these drink-drivers will ultimately allow drink-drive campaigns to target them more effectively.

Sponsoring Organisation: Baseline Research Program - Department of Justice, Transport Accident Commission, Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) Ltd, VicRoads.