Montana State University

Research shows Montanans more concerned with impaired driving than most Americans

June 18, 2007

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Surveys show significant differences between Montanans and Americans overall when it comes to their concerns about impaired driving.

A statewide survey showed that 94 percent of Montanans believe driving while impaired is a crucial issue, while a national survey showed that 88 percent of the national population felt that way, according to Jeff Linkenbach, director of the MOST of Us health promotion research group at Montana State University. The difference was statistically significant. "Impaired" driving in both surveys was defined as blood alcohol content above the legal limit or impairment by the use of legal or illegal drugs.

Also in the pre-election-time surveys, six of 10 Montanans reported that they would only vote for a candidate for state legislature who supported increased and highly visible impaired driving law enforcement.

Both telephone surveys were conducted by MOST of Us, a research institute based at MSU, under a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"The results show that Montanans understand that driving impaired is a very serious problem, and that our support for law enforcement is strong," said Linkenbach. "We all, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, legislators and the general public, must work together to eliminate impaired driving in our state."

The surveys of 404 Montanans and 1,200 people in 50 states and the District of Columbia were conducted in 2006. Other findings from the two surveys include:

--Ninety-one percent of Montanans and 92 percent of Americans describe themselves as supportive of law enforcement.

--Adult Montanans are statistically more likely to think that law enforcement officers are generally trustworthy and honest than are adult citizens nationally.

--Montanans are also more likely than their counterparts nationwide to think that the current impaired driving laws and penalties are not effective in deterring and punishing offenders.

--Sixty-three percent of Montana adults believe that if someone in their community were to drive while impaired, the chances are high that they would harm themselves, harm someone else or damage vehicles or property.

--Forty-five percent of Montana adults believe the chances are high that they or someone they care about might be harmed by an impaired driver.

The complete report comparing the two surveys is available online at mostofus.org.

MOST of Us is a health promotion research group that uses a social norms approach to build support for impaired driving prevention strategies. This model of "social norms advocacy" scientifically examines the perceptions, opinions and behaviors behind our daily choices and then uses that information to encourage people to make healthier decisions. The approach will be tested in high-risk impaired driving states, beginning with Montana. For more information, contact Jeff Linkenbach, (406) 994-3837 or jwl@montana.edu.

Contact: Jeff Linkenbach (406) 994-3837 or jwl@montana.edu