Background: Alcohol-impaired driving accounts for substantial proportion of traffic-related fatalities in the U.S. Risk perceptions for drinking and driving have been associated with various measures of drinking and driving behavior. In an effort to understand how to intervene and to better understand how risk perceptions may be shaped, this study explored whether an objective environmental-level measure (proportion of alcohol-involved driving crashes in one’s residential city) were related to individual-level perceptions and behavior.
Methods: Using data from a 2012 cross-sectional roadside survey of 1147 weekend nighttime drivers in California, individual-level self-reported acceptance of drinking and driving and past-year drinking and driving were merged with traffic crash data using respondent ZIP codes. Population average logistic regression modeling was conducted for the odds of acceptance of drinking and driving and self-reported, past-year drinking and driving.
Results: A non-linear relationship between city-level alcohol-involved traffic crashes and individual-level acceptance of drinking and driving was found. Acceptance of drinking and driving did not mediate the relationship between the proportion of alcohol-involved traffic crashes and self-reported drinking and driving behavior. However, it was directly related to behavior among those most likely to drink outside the home.
Discussion: The present study surveys a particularly relevant population and is one of few drinking and driving studies to evaluate the relationship between an objective environmental-level crash risk measure and individual-level risk perceptions. In communities with both low and high proportions of alcoholinvolved traffic crashes there was low acceptance of drinking and driving. This may mean that in communities with low proportions of crashes, citizens have less permissive norms around drinking and driving, whereas in communities with a high proportion of crashes, the incidence of these crashes may serve as an environmental cue which informs drinking and driving perceptions. Perceptual information on traffic safety can be used to identify places where people may be at greater risk for drinking and driving. Community-level traffic fatalities may be a salient cue for tailoring risk communication.