Are Alcohol Monitoring Programs the Answer to Drunk Driving?

A monitoring program worked well for the ability to track and monitor people taking addictive prescription painkillers, as it cut back on rates of prescription drug abuse and addiction. Perhaps because of this, a monitoring program has been implemented by some states with the goal of cutting back on the rates of drunk driving and domestic violence, reports the Associated Press. Rather than go to jail, those who are arrested and convicted of either charge must check in twice a day to demonstrate that they have stayed sober, and if they do so, they will not be incarcerated.

Currently, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota have put alcohol monitoring programs into place, and five other states are experimenting with similar programs as well. Every morning and every evening, participants in the program go to a testing site to use a Breathalyzer test. Some who have difficulty in maintaining sobriety may be asked to additionally wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet and/or install ignition interlock systems in their cars.

The first time that a participant in the alcohol monitoring program fails the test, the individual is jailed for 12 hours. The second offense is followed with 24 hours of jail time, and a third failed test requires that the participant remain in jail until a judge can rule on what should happen next.

For South Dakota, the alcohol monitoring program may be a primary reason for the reduced rate of DUI arrests across the state. Once the state with the highest number of DUI arrests in the country and extreme jail overcrowding as a result, South Dakota’s rate of repeat DUI arrests dropped by 12 percent and repeat domestic violence arrests dropped by 9 percent between 2005, when the program was implemented, and 2010, according to a study by the RAND Corporation.

Participants are required to pay a fee of $1-3 for each test they take; thus, the cost to the state is very low. Additionally, of the more than 37,000 people in South Dakota who took part in the program over the last decade since its implementation, a higher than 99 percent pass rate has been reported.

Given the high success rate of the program, it seems like the implementation of alcohol monitoring programs may help to decrease rates of drunk driving and other dangerous choices commonly made by people under the influence of alcohol.

Drunk Driving and Drugged Driving: Facts and Stats

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), the following is true about Americans driving under the influence of alcohol and other substances:

  • About 32 percent of car accidents that result in a fatality involve a driver or pedestrian – or both – who is under the influence.
  • Almost 4,000 drivers who died in a car crash tested positive for drugs or alcohol.
  • More than 1.2 million drivers were arrested for driving while intoxicated in 2011. Additionally, in 2012, more than 29 million people reported that they had driven after drinking alcohol.
  • Fatal car accidents are the leading cause of death among American teenagers, and about 25 percent of those accidents involved an underage driver who was drinking.
  • An average of two out of every three Americans will be involved in an accident related to drunk driving at some point in their lives.

Major Red Flag

While it is possible to be arrested for driving under the influence after having a couple glasses wine with dinner or underestimating the effect of having a couple beers in a couple hours at the bar – a one-time thing that won’t be repeated – oftentimes, being arrested for a DUI can be a sign that it’s time to assess one’s relationship with alcohol and consider getting treatment.

If this is the first DUI arrest but far from the first time you have driven while under the influence of alcohol or any drug, therapy that will help you to quit drinking, and determine whether or not there is a substance abuse issue that requires treatment, is recommended. If you have been arrested multiple times for DUI, then it is clear: Immediate treatment is necessary.

Social Responsibility

Even if you don’t mind taking your own health and safety into your hands, and even if you have managed to make it home hundreds of times while under the influence of alcohol, exposing others to risk on the road – including innocent children, pedestrians, and families – is reason enough to seek help if you are unable to stop on your own.

The CDC reports that one person dies every 51 minutes on average due to an alcohol-related car accident and that the costs of these accidents, as well as the nonfatal alcohol-related accidents, adds up to more than $59 billion each year. Additionally, they note that drivers who were involved in a deadly car accidents with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher were six times more likely to have been arrested in the past for DUI as compared to drivers involved in fatal crashes that had no alcohol in their systems.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or any substance that impairs the ability to react quickly and drive safely is nothing to take lightly. Educating Americans about how much is too much, how to monitor the impact of their drinking while out, and how best to deal with the situation when they unexpectedly realize that they are not okay to drive is a great start to helping to minimize drunk driving and minimize risk. For those who can’t limit their drinking or the choices they make under the influence including driving, the greatest hope for positive change comes through rehab. It’s possible that the introduction of alcohol monitoring systems may move states closer to helping those who need treatment to get the assistance they need.

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