OHSU Takes Part in Drunken Driving Study

04/03/01    Portland, Ore.

Research Project Kicks Off During Alcohol Awareness Month in April

Researchers at Oregon Health Sciences University are taking part in a study aimed at reducing drunken driving incidents by repeat offenders. The research is based on the DUII Intensive Supervision Program (DISP), which was created by Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Dorothy Baker in 1998 in cooperation with several governmental agencies. The program combines various long-term sanctions for repeat drunken driving offenders. These sanctions include electronic monitoring, periodic breath testing, strict probation and the sale of all offender-owned vehicles. In contrast, repeat drunken drivers historically have received extended jail sentences as a form of punishment, a practice that has yielded limited success. The purpose of this study is to determine if certain long-term sanctions provided by the DISP program and similar programs are effective. This research also will help determine if certain long-term sanctions are more effective than others.

Throughout the study, researchers with OHSU's Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine will collect data and track the progress of participants who opt to take part in Judge Baker's DISP program and the research project. The research is being coordinated by Sandra Lapham, Ph.D., director of the Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest (BHRCS) in Albuquerque, N.M. BHRCS is a nonprofit agency established in 1997 to conduct research on substance abuse, violence, drunken driving and other behavioral health issues. OHSU, Judge Baker and the BHRCS will work closely together throughout the duration of the study.

To gauge the effectiveness of various long-term, drunken driving sanctions, study participants will be randomly assigned to one of four intervention groups. The first group will undergo electronic monitoring with periodic breath testing and intensive probation. Penalties for group two participants involve the required sale of all offender-owned motor vehicles in addition to intensive probation. Group three participants will undergo electronic monitoring, periodic breath testing, the required sale of all offender-owned motor vehicles and intensive probation. The final group of participants will receive intensive probation alone. In addition to the sanctions required by each intervention group, participants also will receive addiction treatment, have their driver's license revoked and serve any jail time as required by law.

OHSU researchers will interview each participant three times during a two-year period. Scientists will track their progress and compile the data.

"The theory is that group-three participants will be the least likely to re-offend. But the fact is, we really don't know if that will be true. The purpose of this study is to test this theory and determine whether some of these longer-term sanctions are more effective than others," said Jodi Lapidus, Ph.D., an assistant professor of public health and preventive medicine in OHSU's School of Medicine. Lapidus also serves as leader of OHSU's research team.

Judge Baker agrees that it is important to study the methods used to try and prevent repeat drunken driving offenders from continuing their reckless behavior. "Judges and legislators need to know which measures work effectively and efficiently," said Baker. "This research will help us figure out what we can do to keep drunken driving offenders off the street."

Editors note: As part of Alcohol Awareness Month in April, OHSU also is taking part in Alcohol Screening Day.



Alcohol Screening Day


Thursday, April 5, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Hatfield Building ninth-floor lobby, Oregon Health Sciences University, and the OHSU Family Health Center-Gabriel Park, S.W. 45th and Vermont, Portland


Portland-area residents can receive free screenings for problem alcohol use. Screening sites will provide a short questionnaire and printed information about alcohol and its impact on health and behavior. In addition, experts will be on hand at both screening sites to answer questions. The event is locally co-sponsored by OHSU's Behavioral Health Clinic, an alcoholism and addictions treatment center, and the Portland Alcohol Research Center.