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24/7 Sobriety program may show promise for drunk drivers

People who drink and drive in North Dakota may face serious penalties, including prison time, vehicle fines and driver’s license suspension. These consequences have the potential to be long-lasting and affect a person’s record for a lifetime. It may be difficult for those with drunk driving convictions to remain employed, especially if their driving privileges have been revoked. Are there alternatives to harsher consequences that may allow someone with a DUI charge to make positive changes and continue driving?

A program called “24/7 Sobriety” has been in effect in South Dakota for a decade, and is now being used in communities in North Dakota and other states. The approach taken with 24/7 Sobriety is different from the usual approach of harshly punishing people for drunk driving with the aim of keeping drunk drivers off the road. Instead, 24/7 Sobriety allows those with repeat convictions to retain their driving privileges, but they are not allowed to drink alcohol at all during their months in the program.

To ensure they remain sober, participants show up at a police facility each morning and evening to blow into a breath test device. Those found to have alcohol in their systems are immediately arrested and spend one or two nights in jail. The consequences may seem lenient to some, but the program in South Dakota has resulted in a pass rate of more than 99 percent for participants throughout its decade-long implementation. Additionally, communities using the program have experienced a 12 percent drop in subsequent DUI arrests and a 9 percent decline in domestic violence charges.

It is possible that more states will adopt this program if the results continue to be this promising. Many of those facing DUI charges might agree that continuous efforts to keep them sober while implementing smaller, immediate consequences may be preferable to more severe punishments.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "A Simple Fix for Drunken Driving," Keith Humphreys, Aug. 14, 2015

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