Do deterrence and social-control theories predict driving after drinking 15 years after a DWI conviction?

Sandra C. Lapham, Michael Todd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objective: This study investigates the utility of deterrence and social-control theories for prospective prediction of driving-while-impaired (DWI) outcomes of first-time DWI offenders. Method: The sample consisted of a subset of 544 convicted first-time DWI offenders (N = 337 females) who were interviewed 5 and 15 years after referral to a Screening Program in Bernalillo County, New Mexico. Variables collected at the 5-year (initial) interview were used in structural equation models to predict past 3-months, self-reported DWI at the 15-year follow-up (follow-up) interview. These variables represented domains defined by deterrence and social-control theories of DWI behavior, with one model corresponding to deterrence theory and one to social-control theory. Results: Both models fit the data. DWI jail time was positively related to perceived enforcement, which was negatively but not significantly related to self-reported DWI. Neither jail time for DWI nor perceived likelihood of arrest was linearly related to self-reported DWI at follow-up. Interactions between jail time and prior DWI behavior indicated relatively weaker associations between initial and 15-year DWI for those reporting more jail time. Conclusion: Our prospective study demonstrated that for this convicted DWI offender cohort, classic formulations of deterrence and social-control theories did not account for DWI. However, results suggest that punishment may decrease the likelihood of DWI recidivism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-151
Number of pages10
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • DWI
  • Deterrence
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Impaired driving
  • Social-control
  • Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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