Applying Deterrence Theory to Driving: Assessing the Impact of Legislation Authorizing Vehicle Impounds by Law Enforcement

Laura J. Hickman, RAND
Susan Turner, RAND
Terry Fain, RAND

Many jurisdictions have adopted legislation that authorizes law enforcement to impound vehicles driven by individuals suspected of certain offenses, such as driving under the influence of intoxicants. In 1999, the City of Seattle implemented an ordinance authorizing law enforcement to impound vehicles driven by individuals with a suspended license, regardless of vehicle ownership. The paper will present preliminary findings from an evaluation of the impact of this legislation. Specifically, the study assesses whether vehicle impoundment has produced the general and specific deterrent effects anticipated by supporters of the legislation. Data for the evaluation are primarily drawn from police records, court case filings and convictions, state driving records, and tow company records.

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Updated 05/20/2006