While alcohol-related fatalities are a frighteningly real statistic, the fact is that ignition interlock devices used as a preventive measure to keep hard core drunk drivers (HCDDs) from killing or seriously injuring others isn’t failsafe. Now, a number of states are adding another safety precaution: adopting alcohol anklets for DUI offenders.
States have been moving to pass progressive legislation that seeks to substantially shift the focus of DUI laws from penalizing cars to required and enforced sobriety for the most dangerous drivers on the road, the hard core drunk drivers. In June 2011, with the passage of North Carolina’s “Laura’s Law,” the state became the eighth in the nation to pass tougher legislation aimed at curbing HCDDs from injuring or killing others on the road.
Other states that have passed laws in the past year that hit hard on HCDDs include Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Tennessee.
New Mexico, long known as a state on the leading edge of interlock laws and policies, introduced “sobriety bill” legislation that’s been currently tabled until the upcoming congressional sessions.
The state of New York is the latest to get on the tougher legislation bandwagon, as it seeks to incorporate required 24/7 alcohol monitoring for DUI offenders who may be skirting the ignition interlock requirements as part of the state’s tough Leandra’s Law.
Just this week, New York Transportation Committee Chairman Charles Fuschillo (R-Nassau County) and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Nassau County) are reportedly working to introduce legislation that imposes sobriety monitoring for felony offenders who may be slipping through the cracks of New York’s tough interlock laws. One example of such a system is the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAMx, an alcohol anklet monitoring system.
Alcohol anklet versus ignition interlock
The number of currently installed ignition interlock systems in the U.S. is estimated by the industry to be 212,000. That’s nearly double the number found on vehicles just six years ago.
The Traffic Injury Research Foundation says that 71 percent of offenders “blow fails” while ignition interlocks are installed on their cars. This means that they attempt to start the vehicles while they’re intoxicated.
Experts point out the importance of interlock systems in preventing people from driving drunk and the fact that 71 percent of these offenders likely have what could be defined as alcohol abuse or addiction issues. Even though they know that technology is monitoring their behavior, nearly three-quarters of them still try to drive after drinking.
The focus of the new sobriety monitoring laws is to address how to change long-term behavior.
As such, besides legislating policy changes mentioned above, North and South Dakota and Montana have implemented statewide 24/7 sobriety programs that apply to every DUI offender, regardless of whether or not they’ve had previous DUI offenses.
Facts about HCDDs
When you first hear the term, hard core drunk driver, you might conjure up the image of someone with repeated DUI arrests, a person who continues to drink and drive even after his or her license has been revoked.
To a large extent, this image is accurate, according to research on the subject of hard core drunk drivers. But it doesn’t paint the entire picture. There are other contributing factors, according to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Century Council, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), and the Traffic Injury Research Foundation.
- Record of arrests and sentencing. HCDDs have multiple DUI arrests and convictions. One-third of all drivers who are arrested, convicted or adjudicated for DUI are repeat offenders. HCDDs are more likely to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) that is excessively high at the time of arrest (0.25 or above). The HCDD has, on average, over seven DUI convictions.
- Highly resistant behavior. As the name implies, a hard core drunk driver frequently drives (at least once a month) with a 0.15 BAC or above. The HCDD is highly resistant to any change in behavior, despite previous sanctions, treatment or education. With a high recidivism rate, plus a personal history of alcohol abuse and dependence, the HCDD is also more likely to have family members who drive drunk and models that kind of behavior. What’s even more troubling is that the HCDD believes he or she can consume large quantities of alcohol and still drive safely.
- Impact on society. The HCDD will admit to drinking and driving a few times a month, although some drive drunk every day. HCDDs are responsible for two out of every three alcohol-related traffic fatalities. The most frightening statistic of all is that, on average, the HCDD drives drunk 87 times before their first DUI arrest.
The average profile of the HCDD is a male, 35.7 years old, with less than a high school education, employed full time, typically in the building trade industry, and with significant relationship loss (separated, divorced or widowed).
Bottom line: mandating use of alcohol anklets for repeat DUI offenders gives the courts one more tool to help curb the senseless tragedies that all too often occur when HCDDs get behind the wheel after drinking.
For a look at how drinking and driving is a problem mostly for men, citing recent data analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, see Richard Read’s article in our sister publication, TheCarConnection.
This story originally appeared at Family Car Guide.