It has been posited that recent Latino immigrants may be at higher risk for involvement with driving while impaired (DWI) due to a failure of fully understanding the risks associated with DWI as a result of cultural norms from their countries of origin, including lax enforcement of DWI laws. Yet, the literature shows that, in general, Latino immigrants are less likely to drive while impaired than their U.S.-born counterparts, albeit DWI rates vary sharply by country of origin. Beyond these broad results, there is a scarcity of knowledge regarding the drinking and driving trajectories of recent Latino immigrants. A preliminary study conducted by this research team examined drinking and driving behaviors in a sample of Latino immigrants in Miami-Dade County, FL, approximately 7 years after immigration.
Results indicated that compared to the most established immigrants in the sample (permanent residents), undocumented immigrants were less likely to understand DWI laws, more likely to binge drink, and less likely to perceive the associated risks. Despite such elevated risk factors, undocumented immigrants were less likely to be involved in DWI events than permanent residents, in part because of their desire to stay undetected by law officers, but largely because of their limited access to cars.
Interestingly, our preliminary study found that riding with an impaired driver (RWID) was a rather prevalent risk even upon arrival. Given that it is not hindered by driving limitations, RWID constitutes a more immediate (and overlooked) risk for immigrants than DWI. Thus, our preliminary work suggests a picture in which Latino immigrants, despite some contributing risk factors, do not drive while impaired immediately after arriving to the country, but such behavior increases over time. Such a transition period offers an opportunity for early intervention to deter not only DWI but also RWID, as these behaviors are to some extent related.
The current study will take advantage of the lessons learned from a cross-sectional exploratory study to provide a detailed examination of the DWI/RWID phenomena among recent Latino immigrants as they evolve from pre-immigration through their first 3 years in the United States. These initial years have been identified as a period of significant change and stress for immigrants that can determine future DWI/RWID outcomes. The ultimate goal of the study is to acquire a detailed understanding of the environmental, demographic, and sociocultural factors influencing the early adoption of DWI/RWID trajectories. This knowledge will be used to inform culturally relevant intervention strategies for preventing DWI/RWID in the target population.