Moving the Needle: Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities by Focusing on Repeat DWI Offenders
In May the National Transportation Safety Board released 19 recommendations to eliminate impaired driving. This post is the fourth in a series examining the NTSB’s five safety issue areas.
The NTSB recommends using DWI Courts and other programs to reduce recidivism by repeat DWI offenders. Since traditional countermeasures have limited effects on individuals who repeatedly drive impaired, DWI Courts and 24/7 Sobriety Programs have been developed to specifically address the repeat DWI offender.
DWI Courts mandate sobriety and hold offenders accountable through intensive monitoring while providing treatment for underlying addiction or mental health issues. Judges, prosecutors, treatment professionals, and others work together to customize a program for each offender that may include intensive treatment, alcohol/drug testing, and graduated sanctions. The program takes at least 12 months to complete and treatment plans are revised as needed. There are approximately 200 designated DWI Courts and an additional 400 hybrid DWI/Drug Courts across the country.
24/7 Sobriety Programs also mandate sobriety as a condition of participation. Programs employ two primary technologies—twice daily breathalyzer tests or 24/7 transdermal alcohol monitoring bracelets—to monitor a participant’s alcohol consumption. Participants know there is swift and certain sanctions for drinking, often a brief stay in jail. There are three state-wide 24/7 Sobriety Programs as well as several county-level programs throughout the country.
DWI Courts and 24/7 Sobriety Programs require an intense level of involvement from offenders and from supervising agencies and staff. And that involvement pays off for participants as well as their communities. Both programs have been associated with reductions in DWI recidivism.
Despite the evidence that these programs reduce crashes, some notable highway safety organizations believe we should not spend scarce resources on repeat DWI offenders. Others believe that a concerted focus on this population will finally move the needle in the direction we have been seeking. With whom do you agree and why?
In the final installation of this series, I’ll look at the NTSB’s recommendation to establish goals for reducing impaired driving and measuring progress toward those goals.