How much exposure is enough? A study to optimise general deterrence initiatives to prevent drink-driving

Exposure to enforcement activities is expected to deter motorists from committing offences (otherwise known as general deterrence), although the necessary level of such exposure, and what enhances and dilutes the overall effect, remains relatively unknown. This gap in scientific knowledge is a significant oversight given that: (a) deterrence-based initiatives remain the cornerstone of many road safety enforcement approaches within Australia, particularly in the area of preventing drink driving and (b) a tremendous amount of police resources is directed towards maximizing a strong deterrent effect.

This research project has a number of complementary aims, including:

  1. Providing much needed scientific evidence regarding what type of police enforcement (e.g. being breath tested versus observing an operational RBT or even  an stablished but non-operational RBT site) creates the strongest deterrent effect among motorists;
  2. Detailing the complex relationship between perceptual deterrence (particularly the  perceptions about the risk of being apprehended as well as the severity and swiftness of associated sanctions), personal characteristics of motorists (e.g. age, gender, social norms) previous behaviours and experiences with RBT and subsequent offending behaviours;
  3. Exploring across the state the QPS command and operational staffs’ perceptions and knowledge of deterrence approaches and examining the operational alignment with best practice approaches and policy; and
  4. Determining if differences exist between Queensland metropolitan and regional motorists in regards to the deterrent effect of policing operations, and if so, identifying what causes such differences (e.g. rates of exposure to RBT, operational tactics, frequency of drink driving events while avoiding detection, public transport options, etc.)

The project outcomes have the potential to revolutionise (and maximise) how current deterrence-based enforcement activities are implemented by the Queensland Police within a resource limited environment. The study will also ensure that Australia (in particularly Queensland) remains an international leader in the application of effective and tailored enforcement practices that reduce the prevalence (and subsequent impact) of drink driving behaviours.

Funding / Grants

  • Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC), Queensland Police Service (2017)


Other Team Members

This research is not CARRS-Q led.