To meet the annual surge in drunk driving fatalities that coincides with the arrival of Labor Day weekend, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is again rolling out its “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign.
Many criminal justice policies which target repeat drunk drivers seek to punish the behavior of driving rather than drinking, through the use of ignition locks or license suspension yet often fail to reduce a person’s alcohol consumption habits, the root cause of the problem.
South Dakota’s “24/7 Sobriety” program may have found another way.
With the first statewide implementation of the 24/7 program, South Dakota was able to reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths by 33% between 2006 and 2007. Since that time, there has been a further reduction of 25% in the same group.
The 24/7 program targets convicted drunk drivers by requiring twice-a-day breathalyzer tests or the use of a continuous alcohol monitoring bracelet, with an immediate escort to jail if a participant fails or misses a test.
One of the most promising findings is that repeat offenders were also able to find success through the program. In the first peer reviewed study on the program’s effectiveness, performed by the RAND corporation, a 12% reduction in repeat DUI arrests and a 9% reduction in domestic violence arrests were both recorded.
Yet the maximum punishment for failure to comply is just two nights in jail, far lower than many states which will jail repeat drunk drivers for months and years.
These lengthy jailing both fail to address the root behavior, alcoholism, and also result in expensive legal proceedings for the state and defendants.
The simplicity and certainty of the 24/7 program produces clear cut behavior-altering effects and doesn’t tie up precious state resources.
Similar programs are being implemented in neighboring states as well as in the United Kingdom.
According to SCRAM Systems, the company that manufactures the bracelet monitors for 24/7, the results have been duplicated in North Dakota’s own 24/7 program, with 98% of participants successfully completing it.