Observational Study

Cover Page

Technical Report

Technical Summary


List of Tables


Study Sites

Observational Study

Focus Group Research




The observational study involved unobtrusive and systematic observations of the travel patterns of persons whose driver's license had been suspended as the result of a first-time alcohol-impaired driving conviction. The travel patterns from observations conducted during the suspension period were to be compared with the travel patterns during similar observations conducted after the license was reinstated. Thus, according to this "within subject" approach, offenders were observed both during the period when their license was suspended and again after the suspension ended, when subjects had had an opportunity to have their driver's license reinstated and to re-establish typical transportation patterns. The comparison of travel patterns during the suspension period with the travel patterns after reinstatement would permit inferences to be drawn concerning whether offenders' travel patterns changed as a result of the suspension.

Two four-hour observations were conducted during the last month of the suspension period (one observation Monday-Thursday 6 - 10 a.m. and the other observation Friday or Saturday evening 6 - 10 p.m.). These observation periods were selected to include a time period when the subject would likely be traveling to work and a time period when the subject would likely be traveling for personal, recreational, or social reasons. Similarly, two observations were to be conducted at least one month after drivers had had their license reinstated. These post-suspension observations were to be conducted for each subject at the same times of day and days of the week as the during-suspension observations.

However, a review of driver records in the two study sites indicated that many potential subjects did not have their driver's license reinstated after the termination of the DWI/OWI suspension. This was especially common among Wisconsin subjects. In some cases, the offender chose not to reinstate the license, although eligible to do so; in other cases, the offender had concurrent or subsequent suspensions (for non-alcohol offenses) that continued past the termination date for the alcohol-impaired driving suspension. Thus, for many subjects, post-suspension observations were impossible or unfeasible within the time constraints of the project.

As noted in Chapter 2, Wisconsin makes available an occupational license to first-time OWI offenders who have no other license suspensions within the prior year. The occupational license allows driving according to specified times, routes, and purposes. The original research plan provided that offenders with occupational licenses would be observed at times when driving was prohibited, as the driver abstracts for Wisconsin drivers include a detailed description of the terms of the occupational license. However, a review of the driver abstracts of potential subjects revealed that the occupational licenses generally allowed driving during most daytime and evening hours. Thus, conducting observations of these drivers would have been impractical and would have yielded little useful information. Therefore, these subjects were excluded from the observational study.