Findings from the DUMA program: drink and drug driving among police detainees

14 May 2015

This paper finds that detainees do perceive a risk related to drink and drug driving, in terms of impairment in driving ability and potential detection by police. These conditions are likely to result in deterrence from drink and drug driving for some detainees.


In Australia, random breath testing (RBT) was introduced in the mid-1970s to detect drivers under the influence of alcohol. This resulted in a reduction in fatal crashes and alcohol-related traffic accidents across Australia. The success of RBT can be explained through the classic deterrence doctrine, which suggests that decision-making is influenced by the perception of whether the benefits of the crime outweigh the risks of being caught. The introduction of RBT arguably increased the perceived and real risk of being caught, which positively influenced individuals’ decisions to refrain from driving while intoxicated. Following the successful implementation of RBT, between 2004 (in Victoria) and 2011 (in the Australian Capital Territory), random roadside drug testing (RRDT) was introduced across Australia. The aim of RRDT was to deter drug driving, decreasing both the prevalence of drug driving and the associated harms. In 2013, data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) indicated that drug driving and drink driving had been engaged in by more than one in 10 Australians (16% and 12% respectively) surveyed during the previous 12 months. Rates of drug driving are even higher in populations where illicit drug use is common, such as among police detainees, where 65 percent of detainees surveyed reported driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs in the previous 12 months. Examining perceptions of risk of drug driving, in terms of both being caught and legitimacy (perceptions of impairment to driving ability), will identify whether the preconditions exist to support drug driving deterrence through RRDT.

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