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Recidivism of Drunken Driving in Finland 1972-1994
J Pikkarainen*, A Penttilä**, H Seppä***
* National Public Health Institute, FIN-00300 Helsinki, Finland
** Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland
*** Helsinki Police Department, Finland
Recidivism of drunken driving (BAC >=0.05%) was followed on the basis of sentences from 1971 to 1993 in the following materials: 1) all drivers in Helsinki metropolitan area sentenced in 1990 (N = 2477); or 2) in 1991 (N = 2166); and 3) a statistical sample from the whole country sentenced in 1982 (N = 3540).
About one third of the two Helsinki materials had earlier been sentenced for drunken driving in 5 earlier years, and the percentage increased to 40 when 10 earlier years (1980/81 - 1989/90) were taken into account. There were no big differences between age groups, the highest percentage found (55%) in the age group of 35-39 year old males in 1990 (Helsinki 1990-material). This group of 285 persons had been sentenced 429 times between 1971 and 1989.
A follow-up of the whole country material sentenced in 1982 showed that c. 5% made themselves guilty of this crime in 1982 and that during 1983-1993 the percentage of younger age groups (less than 40 years of age in 1982) increased to c. 50 in 1993. It decreased in elder groups being about half in 1993 for the age group of 50-54 years.
A sentence for drunken driving is a bad sign with respect to recidivism and as will be shown to the life span of the driver in general and should lead to rehabilitation at the first sentence already.
Drinking drivers often repeat their offense, i.e. they make themselves guilty of recidivism. Because already a single offense has been taken to mean alcohol problems (National Council on Alcoholism, 1972) recidivists certainly cannot control their drinking and driving especially, if the time interval between offenses is not long.
The blood samples of all suspected drivers are analyzed in the National Public Health Institute (NPHI) in Finland. Therefore, we have been able to follow through the years 1972-1994 the recidivism in a population of drivers arrested in 1982. Our main objective was to find the rate of recidivism in a single population in order to make conclusions on the problem in the drunken driving population. Another objective was to find out how, if at all, the recidivist drivers differ from those arrested only once.
In 1982 the police sent 22,325 requests/samples of drunken drivers to NPHI of which every fifth case (4465) was included in the present study. The aim of the present work was to study sentenced male drivers from motorized road traffic. The number of these cases was 4222. This material was further purified in the following order by excluding 1) the persons with an incomplete personal identification number and all non-Finnish citizens (12.6%), 2) the additional (recidivism) cases of the same person in 1982 (9.0%), 3) the persons not sentenced for drunken driving with suspension of driver's licence (5.4%), 4) the deceased before January 1, 1995 (12.3%), and 5) the female drivers (107). The total of the purified material of 2458 was male drivers, i.e. 60.6 % of the original male driver material. The recidivism of these drunken drivers in 1972 - 1994 was investigated from the NPHI files and confirmed from the Driver's Licence Register.
The mean age mean of these drivers was 29.8 ± 10.0 (S.D.) years in 1982.
These 2458 drivers convicted for drunken driving in 1982 had been arrested and sentenced in each study year from 1972 to 1994 as shown in Table 1. The number of recidivists varied from 39 (in 1972) to 306 (in 1984) and the number of sentences from 44 (in 1972) to 494 (in 1982). However the rate of sentences per driver in each study year was rather constant varying from 1.07 (in 1975) to 1.51 (in 1991) with the exception of 2.33 in 1982. During the whole study period the average numbers of recidivist drivers, sentences and rates were 194.3, 261.7 and 1.35, respectively.
* The number of single offenders in 1982 is not included (2458)
The number of repeated offenses is shown in Figure 1. Two-thirds of the drivers (66.2%) had more than one sentence during the whole study period (1972-1994). During these 23 years the highest number of sentences was 31 for a 43 years-old driver (in 1982). The total number of sentences was 8398, i.e. 3.42 per all drivers and 4.65 per recidivist drivers (n=1628). Repeated offenses were most often found in the 5-year age groups of 25-29, 30-34, and 35-39 years old drivers (in 1982) (Table 2).
* deceased by December 31, 1994
The recidivist drivers (1628) and the single offense drivers (830) were compared on the basis of the information in the documents received in 1982 in order to find out some predictive characteristics of recidivism. The mean age of these two groups (29.6±9.1 and 30.0±11.5 years) did not differ significantly (t-test). However, the distribution showed a highly significant difference (p<0.0005, CHI-square test) with a higher proportion of recidivists at ages 25-29 and 30-34 years.
As could be expected, the proportion of drivers having a leading position or being students was smaller, and that of unskilled workers higher among recidivists. The same trend was also found in the younger age groups of students and unskilled workers.
Recidivists were also more often arrested during working days than single offense drivers who were more often arrested during weekends.
The mean blood alcohol concentration (in 1982) was higher in recidivists compared to the non-recidivist group (1.67±0.68 and 1.46±0.66 o/oo, respectively; p<0.001, t-test).
With the exception of age, occupation and blood alcohol concentration no other differences could be found between these two groups.
Following general procedure in Finland the police takes the licence away on the spot from the drunken driver when detected on the road. He is not permitted to drive until he has been tried in court and served his sentence. The time interval between the arrest and the trial can be longer than the time of suspension of the driver's licence. In such cases no remarks on the suspension can be found in the Driver's Licence Register. Therefore, these cases could not be included in the present material. One sentence may also comprise several arrests of drunken driving if their time interval is short. Our figures must thus be considered as minimum numbers of arrests and sentences.
The deceased drunken drivers could not be included in the study since their records are excluded from the Driver's Licence Register shortly after their death. One would expect that more deceased drivers were recidivists than single case offenders.
Bearing these facts in mind we can state that at least two thirds of the arrested and convicted drivers are recidivists. These results are in agreement with our earlier findings from annual roadside studies where interviews of alcohol positive drivers revealed that 52% of drunken drivers (BAC >=0.50 o/oo) and 44% of drinking drivers (BAC <0.50 o/oo) admit they have been earlier convicted for drunken driving (Pikkarainen and Penttilä 1987, 1993; Penttilä and Pikkarainen 1993).
A sentence for drunken driving is a bad sign with respect to recidivism which is also reflected in the life span of the driver in general (Penttilä, Pikkarainen and Seppä in these proceedings). Measures towards rehabilitation should thus already be taken at the first sentence.
The authors are indebted to the Ministry of Interior for financial support and the Driver's Licence Register Agency for the permission to use their register.
National Council on Alcoholism, Criteria Committee. Criteria for the diagnosis of alcoholism. Ann Int Med 1972;77:249-258.
Penttilä A, Pikkarainen J. Rattfylleri och recidivism i Finland - Utvecklingen på 1980-talet. In: Tilbakefall blant promilledømte og promillegrensene. Vurderinger og forslag til forskning fra et seminar i Esbo, Finland, 9-10. mai 1990. København: Nordisk Ministerråd, 1993:3-8. Nordisk Seminar- og Arbejdsrapport 1993:551.
Pikkarainen J, Penttilä A. Recidivism among problem drinking DWI- offenders in Finland. In: Noordzij PC, Roszbach R, eds. Alcohol, drugs and traffic safety - T86. Proceedings of the tenth international conference on alcohol, drugs and traffic safety. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1987:513-6.
Pikkarainen J, Penttilä A. Drinking, driving, and road side studies - the Finnish experience (Widmark Award lecture). In: Utzelmann H-D, Berghaus G, Kroj G, eds. Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety - T92. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety, ICADTS - T'92. Cologne: International Committee on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety (TÜV-Akademie Rheinland GmbH), 1993;3:1582-1602.
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