Evaluation of the Florida Level I DUI Curriculum
 December 1, 1997
Frederick A. Marsteller, Ph.D.
 Emory University School of Medicine
Executive Summary

The Florida Level I DUI curriculum is an educational intervention that is required for license reinstatement for DUI first offenders and some drug offenders.  The current Level I curriculum is unstructured, relying on very well qualified instructors to develop individual curricula within program guidelines.  It is generally presented as a mix of risk-reduction and harm-reduction models.  The risk-reduction component is oriented toward reducing impairment per se by reducing consumption.  The harm-reduction component concentrates on reducing the chance that program participants will continue to drive while impaired.

In January 1996, the Emory University School of Medicine, was awarded a contract from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to evaluate the Level I curriculum which all DUI first offenders are required to attend.  The objectives of the evaluation were:

This summary presents the goals and objectives devised by program stakeholders, the recommendations resulting from the evaluation and the major observations that led to those recommendations.

After familiarizing ourselves with the curriculum and the system under which it operates, with the assistance of the DUI Programs section, we convened a meeting of 25 stakeholders in the Level I system including curriculum instructors, DUI school administrators, law enforcement agents, DHSMV officials, judges, legislative representatives and others.  The purpose of this meeting was to formally establish a set of written goals and objectives for the Level I curriculum. After compiling the results of the meeting and distributing draft goals and objectives for comment, a set of four goals and their accompanying objectives were accepted.  Those goals and objectives served as the basis for all subsequent work in the evaluation.  The final Level I Curriculum Goals and Objectives are appended to this summary.

A questionnaire designed to evaluate student progress with respect to the goals and objectives was then developed and validated using a pilot study sample of 353 student from 18 classes at 6 DUI schools.  The final questionnaire consisted of 75 items.  The recommendations are based on responses of 1654 students before-class and after-class questionnaires, responses of 604 students to a follow-up interview three months after they completed the class, our observations of classes and discussions with curriculum instructors and administrators.  The detailed results of these studies are presented in the accompanying reports.


  1. Introduce a standard, mandatory exit exam that tests program participants’ knowledge and understanding of the information that the curriculum needs to impart to meet its goals and objectives.  The exam should focus on students’ ability to generalize the information in a manner applicable to real-world drinking/substance use situations.  This recommendation is made for two primary reasons.  First, under the current system, students have no external motivation to master the curriculum material and internal motivation to learn in this population is very likely to be weak.  Telling students at the start of class that they will be required to pass a "final exam" will increase attention and learning.  Second, if the exams are entered into a central database, they will provide the State with a powerful tool for continuing evaluation of program effectiveness and for monitoring the effectiveness of individual instructors.

  3. Limit the maximum length of classes.  I recommend a maximum of three class hours per day, which would require a minimum of four class meetings.  Nearly one-half of the classes for which we have data in this study were taught in two-day sessions on a single weekend.  As expected from the literature of the psychology of learning, students in the two-day classes did not learn as much or show as much attitude change as students in classes that met more often.  Increasing the number of class sessions also provides the instructor the freedom to use an important educational tool to improve student learning – homework.

  5. Increase the standardization of curriculum materials.  The quality and content of the materials currently in use is highly variable and students generally leave class without a resource for reviewing the curriculum material should they so choose.  There is also concern regarding the amount of class time that is spent showing videotapes, some of which may contribute little to meeting the goals of the curriculum.

    1. Introduce a standard text, perhaps in the form of a workbook.  This would assure that students have access to all of the information that will be included in the exit exam.  It could also provide useful in-class and homework exercises.
    2. Limit the amount of class time spent viewing videotapes.  The current 12-hour duration of the curriculum is very short for meeting the ambitious goals that the State has set for the curriculum.  Devoting two or more hours of that time to viewing videos is probably not effective.  The State should also consider limiting the videos that may be used to those whose content justifies the time they require.
    3. Broaden the discussion of the nature and extent of problems related to substance use.  The most common mode of presentation of substance abuse that we saw during this evaluation focused on the classic model of alcoholism.  There is a wide range of problems, at both clinical and sub-clinical severity, which result from substance use and which are not adequately covered in presentations focused on the very severe problems associated with alcoholism per se.  The less severe substance use problems are present at high prevalence among the students in these classes, as shown by very high rates of clinical referral in the Level I system.  Time spent discussing such problems might enhance the ability of students to take a personal, vested interest in the risk-reduction message of the curriculum because they will recognized the presence of or the beginnings of such problems in their own lives.
  7. After implementing these changes, the State should re-evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum in meeting its goals and objectives.  Should further improvement be deemed necessary, additional steps, such as moving to a more highly structured curriculum and/or increasing the total length of the curriculum should be considered.
Primary observations: In our evaluation of PRI curriculum in Georgia, where we used many of the same questionnaire items, we concluded that the curriculum was successful in meeting its goals.  That was not the case in this study and in several areas, student’s responses improved substantially less in Florida than they did in Georgia.  At the time of the Georgia study, the curriculum was four hours longer and the instructors had more experience teaching the curriculum than in this study.  Students were also told at the start of class that they were required to pass a final exam.  These factors may have contributed to the difference in the results of the two studies.  Student and instructor ratings of the PRI curriculum were lower than their ratings of the other two curricula, which may reflect a slower instructor learning curve for this highly structured curriculum.

The RDI curriculum was derived directly from the current curriculum and the goals and objectives developed in this study.  Instructor familiarity with the curriculum was probably much less of a problem for this curriculum than for the PRI curriculum.  In general, students of this curriculum improved in knowledge and attitude slightly more than those attending the other curricula.  However, the strong pattern of misunderstanding of the curriculum material discussed above was equally manifest in students receiving this curriculum.  The RDI curriculum provides a student workbook that is accurate and readable, but may suffer from oversimplification and a lack of exercises which help students develop the ability to generalize the informational content as it relates to their actual patterns of use.

Goals and Objectives of the Florida Level I DUI Curriculum
Goal 1:  The student will understand the effects, risks and consequences of the use of alcohol and other drugs. Objectives:  At the end of the curriculum, the student will know:
  1. an accurate definition of a drink of alcohol and the average amount of alcohol the body can metabolize in an hour;
  2. the behavior and symptoms that distinguish alcohol use, abuse and dependence, including denial;
  3. the physiological effects of the use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs, including their combined effects;
  4. the major factors affecting variation in personal response to alcohol and other drugs;
  5. the general factors which influence people, including the student, to engage in the use of alcohol and other drugs;
  6. the social and psychological consequences of substance abuse/dependence including the impact on others and society.
Goal 2:  The student will know the risks and consequences of impaired driving. Objectives:  At the end of the curriculum the student will know:
  1. the factors which influence the decision to drive while impaired;
  2. the effect of alcohol and drugs on the driving task;
  3. the risks of riding with an impaired driver;
  4. the social, legal and financial consequences of DUI arrests and convictions;
  5. the risk of serious accidents due to driving while impaired and the social, legal and financial consequences of DUI accidents with respect to the offender, victims and the families of both.
Goal 3:  The student will be able to address issues that place him/her at risk for substance use problems and be able to accept personal responsibility for the use of alcohol and/or other drugs, especially for driving after use. Objectives:  By the end of the curriculum the student will, through individual consideration of the risks and consequences associated with past use of alcohol and/or other drugs, have:
  1. reduced denial, anger and other impediments to changing behavior;
  2. identified conditions and/or behaviors that may place him/her at risk for problems caused by substance use and for driving while impaired;
  3. accepted personal responsibility for the risks associated with past use of alcohol and/or other drugs, including driving while impaired;
  4. accepted responsibility for the consequences of any future use of alcohol and/or other drug use, including driving after use;
  5. expressed intent to refrain from high risk use of alcohol and other drugs and not to drive after their use.
Goal 4:  The student will have developed a personal plan for responsible use of alcohol and/or other drugs, which may include abstention, and for ways to prevent future impaired driving. Objectives:  The plan will include:
  1. a description of how the student will prevent future high risk use of alcohol and/or other drugs;
  2. a description of how the student will avoid future driving after use of alcohol and/or other drugs;
  3. a way for the student to assess his/her success in following the plan and, if unsuccessful, effective ways to alter the plan.
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