Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Mark T. Fillmore


Licensed drivers arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol have increased rates of vehicle crashes, moving violations, traffic tickets, and contribute to an estimated 120 million occurrences of impaired driving per year (Evans, 2004; Jewett et al., 2015). Survey research on DUI offenders indicates traits of impulsivity (e.g., sensation seeking). Together, these pieces of evidence suggest that DUI offenders display patterns of impulsive action and risk-taking while driving. However, to-date DUI offenders are rarely studied in a laboratory setting, and not much is known about how they respond to a dose of alcohol. The present study examined the degree to which DUI offenders display an increased sensitivity to the acute impairing effects of alcohol on mechanisms of behavioral impulsivity, skill and risk-based driving simulations, and subjective evaluations of driving fitness and perceived intoxication following alcohol consumption. A sample of 20 DUI offenders were compared to a demographically-matched sample of 20 control drivers. All participants attended two dose sessions in which they received either a 0.65 g/kg dose of alcohol or a placebo dose, counterbalanced, on separate days. Results indicated that alcohol affected all of the behavioral outcome measures. More specifically, alcohol increased impulsive choice responses and decreased response inhibition on the behavioral impulsivity tasks. Alcohol also increased risky driving behaviors and decreased driving-related skills. Furthermore, alcohol generally decreased participants’ self-reported willingness and ability to drive a motor vehicle, and increased levels of intoxication and BAC estimations relative to placebo. With regard to group differences, DUI offenders showed an increased sensitivity to the disrupting effects of alcohol on impulsive choices, such that DUI offenders showed a significantly greater preference for impulsive choices under alcohol relative to placebo than controls. Taken together, these findings provide some of the first pieces of evidence that compared to controls, DUI offenders display an increased tendency for impulsive decisions under alcohol, which likely contributes to risky decisions to drive after drinking, despite clear evidence for their behavioral impairment. These findings could have important implications for understanding the mechanisms underlying maladaptive behaviors in this high-risk population, and sheds light on possible targets for intervention to reduce DUI recidivism.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)