Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




It Is estimated that alcohol plays a factor in between 35 and 64 c'-rcent of all fatal crashes and between 6 and 25 percent for non-fatal accidents, resulting in alcohol .being involved in about half of the roughly 50,000 annual traffic fatalities in the United States. Clearly, drinking-and driving is a major contributor in both the severity and the frequency of traffic accidents.

The basic concept of deterrence states that people will refrain from behavior defined as socially-unaccc.ptable if the resulting perception and fear of penalties (or sanctions) against such action are adequately undesirable in comparison to the potential benefits of the behavior. Informal sanctions, those that are channeled through non- formalized media such as friends, family, or some other relevant collectivity, are oftentimes considered a much more effective deterrent for some offenses than are the formal sanctions imposed by the courts.

However, the dynamics of the informal sanction have impeded research into the individual perceptions and effects of such an elusive social control mechanism. It is hypothesized that the presence of certain personal and social characteristics may be related to the severity of informal sanctioning radiated from others toward that person.

This study applies this theoretical foundation to the offense of DUI. From November of 1987 through May of 1988, a questionnaire was administered to a group of 122 people convicted of DUI in Cass County, North Dakota. The offenders sampled were participants in the Cass County First Offender DUI Program, an educative/punitive program designed as an alternative to jail sentences foi- those deemed by a license addiction counselor to be free of any chemical dependency problem.

Upon constructing a scale comprised of 13 Likert-type items, the following findings were conferred: social status (income, education, occupation) showed no relationship with the offenders' perceptions of informal sanctioning, although the variables of occupational status and income did so moderately.

Gender proved to be the most discriminating factor in the perceived severity of informal sanctions, with females markedly more likely to be sanctioned informally than males. As an example of the influence of primary ties on informal sanctions, marital status was an insignificant factor, as was the presence of an example-setting role (indicated by whether or not the respondent shared his/her current residence with a family member under the age of 18). When combined with marital status, however, those respondents responding positively to the presence of a family member under 18 did score higher than both their single and married counterparts, although not significantly so.

As another example of primary ties, this time to the community, the length of residence and the size of the community were both found to be largely insignificant in the perceived severity of informal sanctions. In the case of size of community of residence, those living within metropolitan areas (100,000+) did indicate the lowest perceived severity of informal sanctions related to their DUI than did any other category. This trend, however, did not emerge consistent as community of residence increased.

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