Evaluation of the Florida
Level I DUI Curriculum
December 1, 1997
Frederick A. Marsteller, Ph.D.
Emory University School of Medicine
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.
to determine the goals and objectives of the curriculum,
to determine whether the current curriculum met those goals
to compare the effectiveness of the current curriculum to
two other curricula: the first is a highly structured curriculum developed
by the Prevention Research Institute (PRI) that is the standard curriculum
used in several other states including Georgia, where we conducted a previous
evaluation, the second was developed for this study by Responsible Driving,
Inc. (RDI) directly from the current curriculum and the goals and objectives
developed for this study, and
to make recommendations for changes to the curriculum and
present an action plan for future evaluation.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Based on responses of program participants to before-class,
after-class and follow-up questionnaires addressing the Level I Curriculum
Goals and Objectives, I concluded that the current Level I curriculum is,
at best, partially successful in meeting its goals and objectives.
This conclusion is based on the following observations:
The overall mastery of the curriculum material, especially
as it pertains to the use of alcohol, was less than desirable. The
most frequently missed questionnaire items were those which pertained directly
or indirectly, to how much alcohol a person is actually consuming and the
effects of that amount.
The pattern of responses to knowledge-based items indicated
that students had not developed a generalized understanding of the curricular
material. The resulting pattern of erroneous beliefs might actually
reinforce high-risk substance use among many program participants.
Very limited changes in targeted attitudes about substance
use indicated that a large fraction of students leave the curriculum still
believing that they have little risk of problems from substance abuse and
little intention of changing their substance use behavior.
Variation among instructors in student improvement with respect
to each of the curriculum goals was very substantial. No instructor
participating in the study ranked in the top 25% of average student improvement
for all four goals. Increased standardization of the curriculum and
more intensive monitoring of instructors might reduce this variablility.
Based on observations of entire classes and discussions with
curriculum instructors and administrators, several factors were identified
which might contribute to the limited success of the curriculum:
Nearly one-half of students participating in this study attended classes
in which the 12-hour curriculum was taught on two consecutive days.
In general, students from classes that met more than twice learned more
and showed greater positive changes in attitudes toward the use of alcohol
and other drugs than those attending the two-day classes.
Participants in the Level I curriculum are nearly universally attending
for the sole purpose of reinstatement of driving privileges. The
current rules for the curriculum require that students arrive for all class
sessions on time and without having used alcohol or drugs, and that they
stay awake and not disrupt the class. There is no general motivation
Curriculum materials. Instructors of the classes
that we observed used a wide variety of materials – handouts, videos, slides,
etc. – many of which were dated or even incorrect. The lack of a
standard text or workbook supporting the curriculum was viewed as a deficiency
that may have contributed to the limited success of the curriculum.
Furthermore, up to 25% of class time was spent watching videotapes, which
probably substantially dilutes the impact of the curriculum.
Curriculum orientation. It was my impression
that in the area of substance abuse, most instructors focus discussion
on classic models of alcoholism. Although all participants in this
program have had at least one substance use related problem – their DUI
or drug offense – few have reached the stage of severe and chronic problems
characteristic of alcoholism. Many, however, are at or near the threshold
for clinically significant problems resulting from their substance use.
Concentration solely on the most extreme end of the spectrum of substance
use related problems might support or even reinforce the denial of risk
that was expressed by many participants at the end of class. Discussion
of substance use problems to which students can personally relate and how
those problems are determined by how much and how often they use alcohol
and/or other drugs can motivate attention to the factual content of the
curriculum, student awareness of consumption, and reinforce the risk-reduction
message. This concern applies nearly equally to all three curricula
evaluated in this study.
Class length. It is possible that, given ambitious
goals of the curriculum and the concerns cited above, there is also too
little time in the 12-hours allotted to the curriculum to permit instructors
to successfully present the curriculum.
Neither of the two alternative curricula that were evaluated
performed substantially better than the current curriculum. This
was attributed to the problems cited above, most of which are independent
of the curricular content or approach.
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:
Goal 2: The student will know the risks and
consequences of impaired driving.
Objectives: At the end of the curriculum the student
an accurate definition of a drink of alcohol and the average
amount of alcohol the body can metabolize in an hour;
the behavior and symptoms that distinguish alcohol use, abuse
and dependence, including denial;
the physiological effects of the use and abuse of alcohol
and other drugs, including their combined effects;
the major factors affecting variation in personal response
to alcohol and other drugs;
the general factors which influence people, including the
student, to engage in the use of alcohol and other drugs;
the social and psychological consequences of substance abuse/dependence
including the impact on others and society.
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:
the factors which influence the decision to drive while impaired;
the effect of alcohol and drugs on the driving task;
the risks of riding with an impaired driver;
the social, legal and financial consequences of DUI arrests
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 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:
reduced denial, anger and other impediments to changing behavior;
identified conditions and/or behaviors that may place him/her
at risk for problems caused by substance use and for driving while impaired;
accepted personal responsibility for the risks associated
with past use of alcohol and/or other drugs, including driving while impaired;
accepted responsibility for the consequences of any future
use of alcohol and/or other drug use, including driving after use;
expressed intent to refrain from high risk use of alcohol
and other drugs and not to drive after their use.
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a description of how the student will prevent future high
risk use of alcohol and/or other drugs;
a description of how the student will avoid future driving
after use of alcohol and/or other drugs;
a way for the student to assess his/her success in following
the plan and, if unsuccessful, effective ways to alter the plan.