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DWI Offenses in Maryland from 1995-2001: Policy Implications for Treatment and Prevention

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Project Summary:

Driving While Impaired (DWI) remains one of the pressing public health issues in the United States. It is of considerable importance both to determine effective methods of preventing drunk driving and to reduce recidivism for DWI offenses. Considerable attention has been focused on sanctioning methods to prevent drunk driving and reduce recidivism. However, fewer studies have focused on the process of how DWI offenders enter into treatment, the characteristics of the treatment they receive, and how treatment reduces recidivism. Moreover, treatment outcomes for repeat offenders are poorly understood. This study will link and analyze data from two automated data collection systems in Maryland: 1) the DWI assessment database, which contains more than 75,000 records describing DWI offenders from 1995-2002; and, 2) the statewide database that contains admission and discharge information from all state-certified alcohol and drug treatment programs, which contains over 140,000 records during the same eight-year time period. During the one-year project period, analyses will be conducted to answer three policy-relevant questions: 1) Prediction of Problem Determination: In Maryland, DWI offenders receive an assessment from a state-approved agency that results in a recommendation that eventually determines the type of treatment the DWI offender receives. This recommendation is called a problem determination. DWI offenders are either determined to be social drinkers or problem drinkers. This proposal aims to determine what factors predict problem determination (e.g., BAC level at arrest, repeat-offense status of DWI arrestees, and/or demographic characteristics). Furthermore, we will describe the type of treatment to which social drinkers and problem drinkers are assigned. 2) Prediction of Treatment Entry: By linking the two administrative databases we will determine the proportion of DWI offenders who actually enter treatment out of those who were assigned to treatment. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many DWI offenders are falling through the cracks and are not receiving appropriate services. We are interested in learning the degree to which entry into treatment can be predicted on the basis of BAC level at arrest, repeat offense status, and/or demographic characteristics. 3) Prediction of DWI Recidivism: We will aim to answer the question: Does treatment help reduce the likelihood of DWI recidivism? Moreover, we will examine other factors that might predict DWI recidivism in addition to treatment, including higher BAC levels at arrest, alcohol problem severity, and demographic characteristics. A team of experienced investigators at the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland will conduct the study in collaboration with the Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration. Widespread dissemination of information to a variety of audiences, including community stakeholders and policy makers is planned. The study will have important implications for DWI policy, recommending appropriate treatment assignment practices, designing more targeted and effective treatment strategies, and preventing recidivism through increased understanding of the characteristics and treatment experiences of high-risk individuals.

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