The law isn't everything: The impact of legal and non-legal sanctions on motorists' drink driving behaviours

Freeman, James, Szogi, Elizabeth, Truelove, Verity, & Vingilis, Evelyn (2016) The law isn't everything: The impact of legal and non-legal sanctions on motorists' drink driving behaviours. Journal of Safety Research. (In Press)

[img] Submitted Version (PDF 228kB)
Administrators only | Request a copy from author

View at publisher



  • The effectiveness of drink driving countermeasures (such as sanctions) to deter motorists from driving over the legal limit is extremely important when considering the impact the offending behaviour has on the community. However, questions remain regarding the extent that both legal and non-legal factors influence drink driving behaviours. This is of particular concern given that both factors are widely used as either sanctioning outcomes or in media campaigns designed to deter drivers e.g., highlighting the physical risk of crashing.


  • This paper reports on an examination of 1253 Queensland motorists’ perceptions of legal and non-legal drink driving sanctions and the corresponding deterrent impact of such perceptions on self-reported offending behaviour. Participants volunteered to complete either an online or paper version of the questionnaire.


  • Encouragingly, quantitative analysis of the data revealed that participants’ perceptions of both legal sanctions (e.g., certainty, severity and swiftness) as well as non-legal sanctions (e.g., fear of social, internal or physical harm) were relatively high, with perceptual certainty being the highest. Despite this, a key theme to emerge from the study was that approximately 25% of the sample admitted to drink driving at some point in time. Multivariate analyses revealed six significant predictors of drink driving, being: males, younger drivers, lower perceptions of the severity of sanctions and less concern about the social, internal and physical harms associated with the offence. However, a closer examination of the data revealed that the combined deterrence model was not very accurate at predicting drink driving behaviours e.g., 21% of variance.

Practical Applications

  • A range of non-legal deterrent factors have the potential to reduce the prevalence of drink driving although further research is required to determine how much exposure is required to produce a strong effect.

Impact and interest:

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

ID Code: 99734
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: drink driving, deterrence, legal and non-legal sanctions
DOI: 10.1016/j.jsr.2016.10.001
ISSN: 1879-1247
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Psychology not elsewhere classified (170199)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 Elsevier
Copyright Statement: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution; Non-Commercial; No-Derivatives 4.0 International. DOI: --
Deposited On: 13 Oct 2016 00:08
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2016 04:45

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page