Objective: To understand the role of social context in contributing to the incidence of alcohol-impaired driving.
Methods: Telephone interviews were conducted with 161 individuals who received a first-time DUI citation. They were predominantly white (70%), male (62%) and 21 to 45 years of age (62%). They were paid $25 for their participation. Questions were asked about their social network, the social context in which they typically drink, the specific location and circumstances where they were drinking at the time of their citation, risky driving behaviors, in the last month as well as the number of traffic tickets they received and crashes they have been involved in since they started to drive.
Results: Two reliable social contexts of drinking were identified through principle components factors analysis: emotional pain and social facilitation. Analyses of variance showed that drinking in a context of emotional pain (eg, to deal with depression, stress) was related to drinking alone at this location and driving when they know they have had too much to drink. Drinking in a context of social facilitation (eg, with friends, to be sociable) was related to drinking more frequently and with others (versus alone) at this location. Social facilitation was also positively related to driving over the speed limit and running a red light/stop sign.
Conclusions: The social context of drinking is important for understanding the social network of drinking drivers, because most (86%) said that someone from their social network was with them at this drinking location. The need to understand how significant others influence the context of drinking as well as the likelihood of impaired driving is critical for program development. These results suggest that different types of interventions are needed for offenders depending on their social context of drinking.