Confronting Drunk Driving


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Social Policy for Saving Lives

H. Laurence Ross; Foreword by Joseph R. Gusfield

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Drunk driving is most often viewed as criminal behavior that is best addressed through the justice system. However, in this new book H. Laurence Ross argues that drunk driving is more than a criminal issue. It is an inevitable consequence of American society’s almost total dependence on automobile transportation and acceptance of the liberal use of alcohol as a part of leisure. Ross offers a more practical approach to the problem of drunk driving, one that combines criminal deterrence with other efforts to reduce the number of deaths caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol.


Ross first discusses the deterrence approach to controlling drunk driving, contending that well-publicized law-enforcement campaigns aimed at increasing the certainty and swiftness of punishment are more successful than highly punitive laws that the target population does not expect to be applied. Ross then shows how society can couple its legal attack on drunk driving with institutional responses. His policy agenda includes proposals to:

- reduce the consumption of alcohol by increasing liquor taxes and restricting the marketing of alcoholic beverages;

- deter automobile use in situations associated with drinking by such means as establishing curfews on driving by young people and subsidizing alternative transportation during drinking hours;

- diminish deaths currently associated with drunk driving by instituting measures that improved car and highway safety generally.

H. Laurence Ross is professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico.

"Prof. Ross challenges successfully current thought that jail is the answer to curb drunken driving, and that we are on the right course in America to deter youthful addiction to alcohol and subsequent drunken driving. Ross covers the waterfront in his relentless myth-shattering way, with excellent data sources meticulously noted and indexed. Hooray for Ross and his sharp-edged book."—Doris Aiken, Founder/President, RID (Remove Intoxicated Drivers)-USA, Inc.

"Ross provides a comprehensive analysis of ways to reduce alcohol impaired driving by integrating the most important new ideas we have learned in the 1980's, and outlining a comprehensive agenda for action that could lead to major reductions in drunk driving in the 1990's and beyond. Ross persuasively describes the limits off deterrence approaches, and wisely presents a much broader coordinated program to address drunk driving based on alcohol policy and injury control strategies./The agenda for action described in Confronting Drunk Driving rests not only on the latest public health, alcohol, and transportation research and theory, but also on a non-moralistic, practical approach to minimizing human suffering./ This lucid and readable volume will be of great interest and direct relevance to the work of policy-makers at the local, state, and federal levels, professionals in the alcohol and injury control fields, and a broad class of students of contemporary U.S. social problems."—Alexander C. Wagenaar, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and Founding Chairman, National Coalition to Prevent Impaired Driving

"Although I do not endorse all the recommendations set forth by Dr. Ross, I do believe his book stimulates precisely the kind of debate needed to find solutions to the drunk driving problem."—Terrance D. Schiavone, Executive Director of the National Commission Against Drunk Driving

"In this important new book, H. Laurence Ross reviews the history of the problem of drunk driving and presents a critique of current efforts to make the punishments from drunk driving even more severe."—Robert L. DuPont, Journal of the American Medical Association

"The expectation that long prison sentences will deter people from driving while drunk is dead wrong, according to this in-depth study. . . . Drawing on research from around the world, [Ross] demonstrates that the culture of America, with saloons and bars on the highway, beer sold at gas stations and happy hours fueling rush hour, must change."—Publishers Weekly

"Well presented arguments that merit very serious considerations in the USA and elsewhere."—Journal of the Institute of Health Education

"A refreshing, different approach which goes beyond most books to address some underlying issues involved."—Midwest Book Review 

"Ross . . . draws from research around the world to come up with recommendations for policy change in this in-depth study of alcohol-impaired driving."—Prevention File

"This will-written text with its comprehensive reference list will allow readers to grasp the complexities of the problems involved as well as to formulate solutions relevant to a variety of professional interest groups."—Public Health

"This book is a thorough and thoughtful review of the evaluative literature on a wide range of social policies, particularly those that draw on the fact that drunk driving is rooted in the social fabric of contemporary American life. . . . It is recommended reading for all social policymakers, but especially for those dealing with drunk driving, and for all sociologists interested in the policy implications of their work."—Allen E. Liska, American Journal of Sociology

"From one of our leading experts on alcohol-impaired driving comes another challenging, insightful, and informative book. . . . For scholars interested in social problems, and drunk driving specifically, this work will stimulate thought and provide for continued discussion and research on this important social concern."—Ray Darville, Social Science Quarterly

"The book takes a thumbs-up award for its encyclopaedic contribution abstracting policy recommendations from a diverse and difficult literature."—Richard Speiglman, International Journal of the Sociology of Law

"This book demonstrates the author's thorough knowledge of the subject, the practicality of his approach, and the vigour of his arguments. It is a valuable tool for the political or administrative decision-maker confronted with the problem of road deaths resulting from the immoderate consumption of alcohol."— Claude Got, International Digest of Health Legislation

"This is thoughtful and challenging reading, which will be of interest to all those concerned with alcohol policy, accidents, and public health."—E. B. Ritson, British Medical Journal

"The writing is crisp and jargon free, the coverage is comprehensive, and the organization is straightforward. . . . Ross has written an important book that translates complex social research into concepts and terms useful to policymakers. It is a superb example of the application of sociology to problems of pressing, public concern."—Michael R. Gottfredson, Contemporary Sociology

"Ross is exceptionally able to challenge the conventional wisdom of the public drinking driving discussion. . . . [He] will lift the issue . . . onto a more rational and yet more imaginative level."—Joseph Gusfield, from the foreword

Winner 1993-94 Award for Outstanding Scholarship given by the Society for the Study of Social Problems' (SSSP) Crime and Delinquency Division
ISBN: 9780300058659
Publication Date: February 23, 1994
235 pages, 6 1/4 x 9 1/2