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The psychology behind repeat DUI offenses

When Colorado lawmakers made fourth-time DUIs a felony offense last year, many people wondered if this was the answer to reducing the number of drunk driving accidents in the state. Many are hopeful it will, but is stricter legislation really the most effective deterrent for repeat offenders?

If we consider the psychological factors associated with drinking and driving, we can see that DUI laws alone are not enough to prevent someone from drinking and driving repeatedly. In fact, unless we address the underlying issues, just about anyone is at risk of repeatedly driving while intoxicated and suffering the strict legal consequences as a result.

Personality And Personal Backgrounds

Though a study conducted in 1995 by the Mid-America Research Institute may seem out of date, the information contained within the study, which can be found here thanks to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is still relevant to this day. The study indicated that a person's personal background, such as a family history of alcohol abuse or how they handled stress and emotional situations, could play a major role in drinking behaviors.

As the study points out, some people stop drinking for a period of time after their first DUI conviction because the "process itself was so disturbing." But it's important to note that a family history of alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction could cause a person to revert back to old habits, putting them at risk of a repeat offense that could eventually turn into a felony.

Cognitive Factors

But as a 2011 study outlined by the National Center for Biotechnology Information explains, cognitive factors, such as risk assessment and impulsive decision-making, can also factor into repeat offenses. For example: a person who believes they are okay to drive may weigh the risk of getting arrested or causing a crash due to their intoxication. If they are impulsive, they may not deem the situation risky, which could then lead to these two negative consequences in some cases.

The State Of Current Laws

Unfortunately, the state of current drunk driving laws in Colorado do not account for the other factors that could be causing people to repeatedly break the law despite the consequences. What can be said is that if future laws do not take into account these psychological factors, more drivers in our state could find themselves facing serious felony DUI charges that might have been prevented had proper treatment been given or different actions taken.

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