Life-time drinking course of driving-while-impaired offenders


Correspondence to: Sandra C. Lapham, Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest, 612 Encino Place NE, Albuquerque, NM 87102, USA. E-mail:



This retrospective study compared drinking histories of 283 men and 413 women convicted of driving while impaired (DWI) in New Mexico and interviewed 15 years following a first conviction and screening referral.


We characterized drinking course and plotted drinking status (stable abstainers, abstainers, moderate or risky drinkers) from age 15 to 60 years.


Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Community sample of previously convicted DWI offenders.


Psychiatric disorders from the Comprehensive International Diagnostic Interview; drinking histories from the Cognitive Lifetime Drinking History.


Risky drinking was prevalent at all ages for both genders. Almost half the population reported either a life-time drinking course of risky drinking (19%) or resumed risky drinking after at least one interval of abstinence or moderate drinking (25%), while about one-fifth followed a never risky or risky to moderate drinking course. Offenders with a life-time diagnosis of substance dependence more often transitioned to risky drinking, and those with life-time alcohol dependence were more prone to transition to abstinence. Across time, those who began risky drinking at age 15 years or later quit at double the rate of those who began before age 15 years. Women's and men's drinking courses were similar, but women began risky drinking at a later age and moved to abstinence more often.


Among people convicted of driving while impaired in the United States, younger age of initiation of drinking and co-occurrence of psychiatric and substance use appear to be associated with a poorer trajectory of subsequent risky drinking behaviour. Women who are convicted of driving while impaired appear to start drinking later in life and be more likely to subsequently become abstainers.