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John Snortum; Psychologist Who Studied Drunks

John Snortum, a college psychologist whose research ranged from comparisons of drunken drivers in Norway and the United States to the image women prisoners have of themselves, has died of cancer. He was 53 and died Saturday at his home in Claremont.

With Dale Berger, a fellow Claremont colleges professor, Snortum in 1985 published a widely reported study of the drinking and driving habits of Norwegian as opposed to American drivers. Their research showed that although Norwegians consumed about 50% more alcohol than the average American, they were far less likely to get behind the wheel when drunk.

Snortum’s research also disclosed that drivers who are arrested for being drunk most often got that way consuming beer rather than hard liquor or wine.

Snortum came away from that study as a fervent advocate of stronger legislation against the drunk driver. He was editor of the book “Social Control of the Drinking Driver,” published this year.

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Earlier, he conducted studies at women’s prisons and reformatories in Iowa and determined that inmates there with poor self-images are most often likely to strike out against authority.

In 1981, Snortum worked with several cities in the San Gabriel Valley to combat juvenile crime through counseling and other psychological techniques.

Snortum, who earned his master’s degree from Washington State College and his doctorate from Washington State University, is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and two daughters. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Dec. 11 at Claremont McKenna College.


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