Social desensitization and DWI in New Mexico: A phenomenological study of the social influence upon the decision to drink and drive
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious event that plagues not only the nation, but the State of New Mexico with deadly repercussions. Rates of occurrences are at all-time highs, with no foreseeable and significant decline in arrests, accidents, and deaths. In Bernalillo County, New Mexico, DWI arrests increased 13% in 2007 from those in 2006 (Wilham, 2008). Nationwide the trends for arrest are just as staggering, with 1.48 million arrests having been made for DWI in 2008 (FBI, 2009). Despite these deadly rates, it was argued by the researcher that the occurrence or act of DWI has been viewed by society as just another crime. This view was investigated as a plausible cause of what is referred to as social desensitization, a factor that may perpetuate incidents of DWI. The purpose of this research study was to examine whether social desensitization holds relevance or experiential significance as to the decision to drink and drive. This phenomenological study was conducted using a personal interview method to collect data implementing an open-ended, semi-structured interview guide. A randomly selected sample of 20 DWI offenders incarcerated within the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico was voluntarily recruited for participation in the study. Given the responses from the participants, as incarcerated DWI offenders, the phenomenon of social desensitization was identified and determined to be an influential player in the decision to drink and drive. Although the results from this study can only be generalized to the population of DWI offenders within the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, the benefits of this study are that, given the identification of social desensitization as a plausible influence and role in an offender's decision to drink and drive, future avenues with new perspectives for additional research into DWI and its reduction have been opened.