Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology & Criminal Justice

Committee Director

Randy Gainey

Committee Member

Ruth Triplett

Committee Member

Bryan E. Porter


The objective of this study was to analyze the relationships among arrests, informal alcohol related social norms, and alcohol related fatal crashes in the U.S. from 1985-2014. Despite inexorable efforts to eliminate drunk driving, approximately twenty percent of the population drives after drinking (Drew, 2010). Although law enforcement arrests play a key part in policies to deter drunk driving, enforcement of DUI laws varies widely across the country (Erickson et al., 2015). However, no project has explored the relationship between structural factors related to community norms, enforcement, and automobile crashes. Thus, this project adds to the literature and understanding of drunk driving by providing a longitudinal evaluation of drunk driving policy that can inform future policy and community-based interventions. This study hypothesizes that community norms toward alcohol will affect DUI enforcement as well as the occurrence of alcohol related crashes and that this relationship will vary over time. The objective was accomplished by aggregating and merging several large longitudinal secondary data sets to the county level and state level. Because of differences in aggregate level factors and policies (O'Neill & Kyrychenko, 2006), multilevel modeling was used to allow for the contemporaneous assessment of state and county factors as well as model these data over time (Raudenbush, 2004). The findings provide mixed support for the contention that DUI arrests reduce the frequency of alcohol related fatal crashes within counties. However, some support is found for the hypothesis that structural factors associated with community alcohol norms are related to DUI enforcement and alcohol related crashes, although the directionality is not always as it was originally hypothesized. These results, coupled with the extant research on drunk driving as well as other theoretical issues, suggest that policies aimed at deterring drunk driving may be less effective at preventing drunk driving. The importance of the impact of structural factors related to community norms is also discussed with an emphasis on further exploration of these factors in future research.


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