Background: In many jurisdictions, a risk assessment following a first driving while impaired (DWI) offence is used to guide administrative decision making regarding driver relicensing. Decision error in this process has important consequences for public security on one hand, and the social and economic well being of drivers on the other. Decision theory posits that consideration of the costs and benefits of decision error is needed, and in the public health context, this should include community attitudes. The objective of the present study was to clarify whether Canadians prefer decision error that: i) better protects the public (i.e., false positives); or ii) better protects the offender (i.e., false negatives).
Methods: A random sample of male and female adult drivers (N=1213) from the five most populated regions of Canada was surveyed on drivers' preference for a protection of the public approach versus a protection of DWI drivers approach in resolving assessment decision error, and the relative value (i.e., value ratio) they imparted to both approaches. The role of region, sex and age on drivers' value ratio were also appraised.
Results: Seventy percent of Canadian drivers preferred a protection of the public from DWI approach, with the overall relative ratio given to this preference, compared to the alternative protection of the driver approach, being 3:1. Females expressed a significantly higher value ratio (M=3.4, SD=3.5) than males (M=3.0, SD=3.4), p<0.05. Regression analysis showed that both days of alcohol use in the past 30days (CI for B: -0.07, -0.02) and frequency of driving over legal BAC limits in the past year (CI for B=-0.19, -0.01) were significantly but modestly related to lower value ratios, R2(adj.)=0.014, p<0.001. Regional differences were also detected.
Conclusions: Canadian drivers strongly favour a protection of the public approach to dealing with uncertainty in assessment, even at the risk of false positives. Accounting for community attitudes concerning DWI prevention and the individual differences that influence them could contribute to more informed, coherent and effective regional policies and prevention program development.
Keywords: Alcohol; Crashes; Decision error; Driving; Injury; Prevention; Risk assessment.
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