Drink driving remains a major public health issue for industrialised countries. Drink driving rehabilitation programs have been introduced as one method of reducing recidivism among convicted drink drivers. Over the years a range of rehabilitation programs have been introduced with varying aims and methodologies. Evaluations of these programs have also been numerous, but have generally only focused on recidivism as a measure of program effectiveness. In light of the many social and personal problems that are often reported in studies of offenders, obtaining changes in lifestyle factors and alcohol consumption may provide more enduring effectiveness of rehabilitation programs.
The current report aims to examine the effectiveness of the "Under the Limit" (UTL) drink driving rehabilitation program in modifying lifestyle factors and knowledge, attitudes and behaviours associated with drink driving.
Face-to-face interviews were conducted on a sample of 125 drink driving offenders at the time of their court appearance and again approximately 9 months later. The total sample consisted of 62 offenders who were undertaking the UTL drink driving program as part of their rehabilitation and 63 offenders who remained within the mainstream sentencing option and acted as a Control group. Participation in the study was voluntary and offenders were paid $25 for each interview for their assistance.
Of the 125 offenders who participated in this study, 24 (19.2%) had previously been convicted of a drink driving offence, with 4 (16.7%) of these offenders being convicted of more than one drink driving offence in the last 5 years. A significant difference was found between the UTL and Control groups for the number of prior drink driving offences (c2(1) = 5.36), with 27% of the UTL group (n = 17) and 11% of the Control group (n = 7) having prior drink driving convictions.
The interview schedule used in this study included a range of lifestyle factors that were seen as potentially contributing to recidivism:
- mental health status
- social support and self-esteem support
- questions pertaining to knowledge, attitudes and drink driving behaviours
- measures of alcohol consumption and alcohol problems.
Socio-demographic characteristics of rural offenders
Offenders who participated in this study were mostly male, single and young. Few were educated beyond a Year 12 standard and many were unemployed and / or receiving a government pension. Offenders in the UTL group tended to have more prior drink driving convictions than offenders in the Control group and this difference was taken into account in all analyses.
Follow-up of offenders over the nine months showed that the UTL program did not impact on the most of the socio-demographic characteristics of the offenders. There was a significant difference between the UTL and control groups in terms of changes in relationship status, with more of the UTL group showing change.
Mental health and social support
All offenders reported experiencing a high level of mental health and social support at the time of the initial interview, as measured by the Mental Health Inventory, the Social Support Appraisals Scale and the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List. No difference was found between the UTL and Control groups on these measures.
Number of prior drink driving convictions was found to influence the level of support received from friends and others, and also the level of self-esteem support received. Offenders with prior drink driving convictions reported lower levels of social support in all instances.
The UTL program did not increase the level of mental health and social support experienced by offenders, relative to the amount of change seen in the Control group over the course of the study.
At the time of the first interview, offenders in the UTL group showed more accurate knowledge for alcohol and drink driving-related issues. However, over the 9 months between interviews, the knowledge of offenders in the UTL group did not improve to any greater extent compared to the knowledge of offenders in the Control group.
Attitudes toward drink driving were generally in the desired direction with many offenders believing there is no excuse for drink driving. Drink driving behaviours were considered to be common with more than three-quarters of the sample indicating that everybody drinks and drives once in a while.
Some offenders expressed deviant attitudes toward drink driving when they indicated that it was okay to drink and drive so long as you don"t get caught. There was also a perception among three-tenths of the sample that the dangers of drink driving are overrated.
Offenders in the UTL group were more likely to believe at the time of their first interview that if they drove while over the limit they would be picked up for a breath test.
While offenders in the UTL group were equally as likely as offenders in the Control group to hold deviant attitudes towards drink driving at the time of the first interview, their attitudes did not improve to any greater extent over the course of the study. This suggests that the UTL program had little effect on the attitudes of this sample of offenders who undertook the program.
Offenders were asked a series of questions to ascertain what behaviours they would change in the future to avoid another drink driving offence. These behaviours formed two factors - driving behaviours factor and drinking behaviours factor. There was no difference between the UTL group and the Control group for these factors at the time of the initial interview.
Analysis of the driving behaviours factor showed that offenders in the UTL group were more willing to change their driving behaviours to avoid a future drink driving offence by the time of the follow-up interview, than were offenders in the Control group. The UTL program increased the intentions of offenders to change their driving behaviours.
A similar relationship was not found for the drinking behaviours factor with the UTL program having little effect on offenders" intentions to change their drinking habits.
Offenders in both the UTL and Control groups reported drinking alcohol at both high frequencies and in high quantities, especially on Fridays. No difference was found between the two groups in their reported alcohol consumption.
Offenders also reported drink driving at a high rate, and although not significant, offenders in UTL group tended to report a higher rate of drink driving than offenders in the Control group.
Over the course of the study, no change was seen in self-reported alcohol consumption among offenders in the UTL group, relative to the Control group, suggesting that the UTL program did not reduce the level of alcohol consumption reported.
A significant change in self-reported drink driving was seen, with offenders in the UTL group reducing their reported level of drink driving to below that of the Control group. The UTL program did impact on the reported level of drink driving among the offenders who undertook the program.
Risk of alcohol problems and readiness to change
Over 80% of offenders were at moderate-to-high risk of developing alcohol problems according to the AUDIT. There was no difference between the UTL and Control groups in their risk of alcohol problems and alcohol dependence.
However, at the time of the first interview, offenders in the UTL group scored higher on the Readiness to Change Scale indicating a greater willingness among these offenders to take action to change their drinking problem.
The UTL program, however, did not appear to decrease the risk of alcohol problems or increase the readiness of offenders in the UTL group to change their drinking habits, when compared to the Control group.
Summary / Conclusions
The present study was designed to examine the impact of completing the "Under the Limit" drink driving rehabilitation program on selected aspects of offenders" lifestyles.
The UTL program did not impact mental health, social support, knowledge, attitudes, and alcohol consumption profiles.
However, offenders who completed the program were significantly more likely to report intending to avoid drink driving, especially through changes in their driving behaviours, and to have engaged in fewer instances of drink driving at the completion of the study.
The UTL program was specifically designed to assist drink drivers in separating their drinking from their driving and it appears that this message was responded to through a change in driving behaviours rather than through a change in drinking habits.
Download Complete Document: Alc_Rehab_3 [PDF: 294 KB]
Type: Research and Analysis Report
Sub Type: Consultant Report
Author(s): Ferguson, M, Sheehan, M, Davey, J, Watson, B
ISBN: 0 642 255326
Topics: Alcohol, Education
Publication Date: 01/06/01