CrossRef citations to date

Making sense of risk: Young Estonians drink-driving

Pages 473-481 | Published online: 13 Feb 2013


In Estonia, young people driving under the influence of alcohol is an issue of social concern. In 2009, half of the intoxicated drivers who were involved in traffic accidents were under the age of 30. To understand the phenomenon in a wider perspective, the motives and reasons behind drink-driving need to be understood.

The aim of this article is to analyse the phenomenon from the perspective of people who have been involved in, but not charged for, drink-driving. The research is based on open-ended interviews and focus groups with young people from rural and urban areas in Estonia. The analysis from the perspective of these ‘unintentional’ drink-drivers aims to explore the neutralization techniques that they employed. Drawing on the neutralization theory, the article looks at the kinds of neutralization techniques are used by young adults in Estonia to legitimize and justify the behaviour that they consider risky and socially unacceptable. The outcomes of this study can be used to develop strategies and prevention messages, which could help change behaviour and attitudes and prevent unintentional drink-drivers from becoming recidivistic ones. The findings suggest that policy and practice should seriously take into account the neutralization technique that draws a distinction between being tipsy and being drunk.



1. Based on the analysis of my interviews, I use the word ‘unintentional’ (drink drivers) to describe my informants: by that I mean that it was not the intention to drink and then go driving but rather something that ‘has happened’ (occurred once or twice) and which is strongly perceived to be risky and deviant.

2. The Estonian Road Administration: http://www.mnt.ee/index.php?id=15390 (23 October 2011).

3. Beside Estonia, Poland and Sweden has the same BAC-level. In most of the European Union countries this limit is up to 0.5 per millilitre beyond which drink-driving is punishable (Ahven & Hillep, Citation2006, p. 10).

4. Riigi Teataja [State Gazette] – (1) Liiklusseadus [Traffic Act]; came into force since 1 July 2011 – https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/102032012014; (2) Liiklusseaduse ja karistusseadustiku ning nendega seonduvate seaduste muutmise seadus [The Law of Changing the Traffic Act and Penal Code and Other Laws Related to Them, translation by the author] – https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/13087219.

5. This was in acccordance with normal practice in Estonia at the time this research was conducted.

Reprints and Corporate Permissions

Please note: Selecting permissions does not provide access to the full text of the article, please see our help page How do I view content?

To request a reprint or corporate permissions for this article, please click on the relevant link below:

Academic Permissions

Please note: Selecting permissions does not provide access to the full text of the article, please see our help page How do I view content?

Obtain permissions instantly via Rightslink by clicking on the button below:

If you are unable to obtain permissions via Rightslink, please complete and submit this Permissions form. For more information, please visit our Permissions help page.