All across the US, states are continually trying out strategies to minimize drunk-driving incidences. Minnesota is no stranger to this problem: in 2013 alone, 25,719 motorists – an average of 70 a day – were arrested for driving while intoxicated. Of the violators, 10,455 or 41% had at least one prior record of DWI.
The state employs various ways to prevent more DWI cases, especially repeat offenses; these include the ignition interlock device program and the one-day DWI program. While a combination of such strategies have had some success in Minnesota, another program, this time in North Dakota, has recently found evidence of its positive impact against drunk-driving.
North Dakota has one of the highest alcohol misuse and binge drinking rates in the country, and to address this, the state implemented the 24/7 Sobriety Program. Under this program, repeat offenders of impaired driving are required to remain sober as a condition of pre-trial release or bond. For their monitoring, the offenders must submit to techniques such as twice-daily blood alcohol concentration tests, drug patches, and ankle bracelet tracking.
The sobriety program was launched in 2008, made statewide in 2010, and expanded in 2013 to include pre-trial and post-conviction offenders. The North Dakota Attorney General has been promoting the program, noting that 98% of its participants complete it without violations or drinking events. In March 2015, the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute (UGPTI) also released its assessment of the program, highlighting its effectiveness.
According to the UGPTI’s assessment, North Dakota’s sobriety program “has a strong deterrent effect” on the offenders. It also found that the program was effective in deterring drunk-driving crashes, even among the most high-risk offenders. In addition, the mandatory 12-month enrolment period for the repeat offenders is more successful in deterring DUI recidivism than the previous sentencing periods determined by local judges.
The UGPTI report also noted some areas in which the program can be improved or strengthened. First, DWI offenders were most likely to re-offend in their first 90 days in the program, so this is the period when close monitoring is especially essential. Aside from that, participants with more drunk-driving offenses were more likely to re-offend, suggesting that early intervention among DWI offenders is a stronger deterrent.
The assessment concluded that the 24/7 Sobriety Program is beneficial to “a majority of North Dakota residents.”
Other states implementing similar programs are South Dakota and Montana, while states like Washington are catching up. There is no sign yet whether Minnesota will follow suit.