Relapse of drunk driving and association with traffic accidents, alcohol-related problems, and biomarkers of impulsivity



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Cambridge University Press


Objective: Individual biological predispositions should play a role in risky driving behaviour. Platelet monoamine oxidase (MAO) activity, dopamine transporter gene (DAT1) and neuropeptide S receptor 1 (NPSR1) gene polymorphisms have been identified as markers of impulsivity, alcohol use and excessive risk-taking. We aimed to find out how this knowledge on neurobiology of impulsivity applies to drunk driving and traffic behaviour in general. Methods: We have longitudinally examined the behaviour of drunk drivers (n=203) and controls (n=211) in traffic, in association with their alcohol-related problems, personality measures and the three biomarkers. We analysed differences between the subjects based on whether they had committed driving while impaired by alcohol (DWI) violation in a 10-year time period after recruitment or not and investigated further, what kind of predictive value do the different biomarkers have in committing DWI and other traffic violations and accidents. Results: The original drunk drivers group had lower platelet MAO activity but further DWI was not significantly associated with this measure. Being a NPSR1 T-allele carrier contributed to the risk of repeatedly committing DWI. DAT1 9R carriers in contrast were involved in more traffic accidents by their own fault (active accidents), compared to 10R homozygotes in the whole sample. All groups with DWI also had significantly more alcohol-related problems and higher scores in maladaptive impulsivity compared to controls without DWI. Conclusions: Established biological markers of alcohol use and impulsivity can be reliably associated with everyday traffic behaviour and help in contributing to the understanding of the need for more personalized prevention activities.