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Drunk Driving--A Different Approach to Enforcement That Seems to Work
Old 08-16-2015, 10:01 PM   #1
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Drunk Driving--A Different Approach to Enforcement That Seems to Work

The WSJ ran an article recently on a new approach to DUI enforcement/punishment that was started in South Dakota a few years ago. It seems to be producing very good results by taking advantage of the way humans assess risk. From the article (bold added):
Quote:
Over the past generation, we’ve made important progress against “driving under the influence,” but the numbers haven’t dropped much recently, and the problem still costs some 10,000 Americans their lives each year.
. . . Legislators and judges have responded to repeat drunken drivers by trying to eliminate their driving—through incarceration, license suspension, ignition locks and vehicle impoundment. Their approach has been to separate the drivers from their vehicles, not from their drinking habits.
A decade ago, as attorney general of South Dakota, Larry Long saw the need for a more direct approach and launched a program called “24/7 Sobriety.” I first encountered 24/7 Sobriety five years ago, and it confounded much of what I had learned in my years as an addiction-treatment professional.
. . . .
Offenders in 24/7 Sobriety can drive all they want to, but they are under a court order not to drink. Every morning and evening, for an average of five months, they visit a police facility to take a breathalyzer test. Unlike most consequences imposed by the criminal justice system, the penalties for noncompliance are swift, certain and modest. Drinking results in mandatory arrest, with a night or two in jail as the typical penalty.
The results have been stunning. Since 2005, the program has administered more than 7 million breathalyzer tests to over 30,000 participants. Offenders have both showed up and passed the test at a rate of over 99%.
Inevitably, a few offenders try to beat the program by drinking just after a successful breathalyzer test, with the idea of not drinking too much before their next one. But people with repeat convictions for driving under the influence don’t excel at limiting themselves to “just a few beers.” They quickly learn that the best way to succeed in 24/7 Sobriety is to avoid alcohol entirely.
The benefits of the program aren’t just confined to road safety. . . . counties using 24/7 Sobriety experienced not only a 12% drop in repeat drunken-driving arrests but also a 9% drop in domestic-violence arrests. Unlike interventions that only constrain drinking while driving, the removal of alcohol from an offender’s life also reduces the incidence of other alcohol-related crimes.
. . . .It turns out that people with drug and alcohol problems are just like the rest of us. Their behavior is affected much more by what is definitely going to happen today than by what might or might not happen far in the future, even if the potential future consequences are more serious.
And there's an obvious tie-in to the psychology of delayed gratification vs. spending with that last bold section, and why saving for "later" vs spending for fun "now" can be hard for many.

There's more in the article about implications for treating addiction in general.

Anyway, getting drunk drivers off the road is good, and this approach seems to be effective at doing it. The cost seems reasonable, and there are apparently benefits that accrue beyond highway safety.
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Old 08-16-2015, 10:05 PM   #2
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And there's an obvious tie-in to the psychology of delayed gratification vs. spending with that last bold section, and why saving for "later" vs spending for fun "now" can be hard for many.
That is a really interesting approach. I had not heard of that before. Thanks for posting about it.
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Old 08-17-2015, 04:15 AM   #3
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Makes a lot of sense. License suspension can be really onerous if you live in an area with poor public transportation, especially if you're employed. I'd take mandated testing over a suspension any day.
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Old 08-17-2015, 05:00 AM   #4
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This program sounds very similar to Hawaii's HOPE program.

In it people put on probation (almost entirely for drug related offenses) are subject to random drug test starting off a few times a week and eventually going down to a couple of times a month.

You call in in the morning to see if you have to come in for your drug test. If you miss it for any reason. You go to jail, but if you come in the next day it maybe will only be for a one day. If you blow it off for a few days, than you'll get a longer sentence. If they have to come looking for you on an arrest warrant than it is a multi year jail sentence. Likewise if you fail the drug test is also a certain jail sentence.

The combination of random testing and certain punishment has resulted cutting recidivism rates in 1/2. So it is being tried in other parts of the country.
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Old 08-17-2015, 06:25 AM   #5
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There is a very much illegal aspect of catching drunk drivers.

A person, driving a legal speed, (i.e. 45 - ~65 MPH on the freeway) weaving between the white lines in the same lane, is NOT breaking the law. Yet, we allow police officers to pull over those drivers and give a sobriety test. It is very much a ‘stop and frisk’ type of situation.

If we keep officers from arresting people that have not broken any laws, it may help some of the incarceration rates and save the jail space for larger crimes.

Does this type of stop and frisk stop prevent a future issue? Maybe. Is a lower accident rate worth giving up some freedoms, maybe not.

Disclaimer: I have never had a DUI, and do not even drink.
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Old 08-17-2015, 06:55 AM   #6
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A person, driving a legal speed, (i.e. 45 - ~65 MPH on the freeway) weaving between the white lines in the same lane, is NOT breaking the law. Yet, we allow police officers to pull over those drivers and give a sobriety test. It is very much a ‘stop and frisk’ type of situation.
Two observations:
- Driving a car is a privilege, not a right. In most/all jurisdictions, when a person drives a car they are consenting to a breathalizer/blood test. So it's not like stop and frisk--because I choose to walk down the street does not mean I have agreed to a search.
- Police don't need to see a criminal act in order to conduct a search, they just need "probable cause." If they see a person run from a bank with a cash bag and jump in a waiting car which departs rapidly, they haven't seen any criminal acts, nor have any been reported. Still, I hope they would stop the fleeing car. It's the same with a car weaving down the road at a speed below the flow of traffic. There's good reason to suspect there's a problem with that driver, and it could be due to alcohol/drugs. The crime is serious, and the probability that the weaving driver is committing it is fairly high--do a search.
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Makes a lot of sense. License suspension can be really onerous if you live in an area with poor public transportation, especially if you're employed. I'd take mandated testing over a suspension any day.
I'd choose it, too. Still, these folks are paying a price: five months of twice daily trips to the police station to wait in line to blow in a tube--that's an enduring daily hassle, and the time equivalent of a couple weeks in the slammer. But because it inflicts some structure in what can be a chaotic daily life of a heavy drinker, and because it encourages abstinence integrated into the rest of their normal activities, it probably serves to encourage other beneficial skills, like getting through the work day and socializing with friends with no/minimal alcohol. That's something a person doesn't learn if they are locked up for a month and then released back into their regular environment.

We shouldn't gloss over some of the civil liberties aspects of this--it's the drinking and driving that is illegal, and this program is prohibiting something that is otherwise legal (consuming alcohol). But I'm not troubled at all by this: A person convicted of DUI is rightly subject to total loss of freedom (incarceration), so this less onerous restriction is not objectionable.
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Old 08-17-2015, 07:24 AM   #7
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The crime is serious, and the probability that the weaving driver is committing it is fairly high--do a search.
Actually, it's only a misdemeanor to get your first DWI in most states. The same as with texting.

The percentage of drivers who actually get into an accident, compared to the ones who are driving over the limit, is minuscule. And those are generally way over the limit.

I am not 100% sure if driving is a right, or a privilege. If you are driving on roads you paid for, you have a right to drive on them. Even if you so not pay taxes, you have the right of mobility, as determined by the US Supreme Court.

The SCOTUS has already ruled a "the free people have a right to travel on the roads which are provided by their servants for that purpose, using ordinary transportation of the day.". That would be automobiles. The concept of being required to have a driver's license in order to exercise a 'right' is also suspect. Any insurance requirement is also a violation of a person's rights.

"The right of a citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, by horsedrawn carriage, wagon, or automobile, is not a mere privilege which may be permitted or prohibited at will, but a common right which he has under his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Thompson v.Smith, 154 SE 579, 11 American Jurisprudence, Constitutional Law, section 329, page 1135
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Old 08-17-2015, 07:34 AM   #8
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I am not 100% sure if driving is a right, or a privilege.
As a practical matter, there's not a single state or municipality in the US where driving on public roads is considered a right. If someone wants to drive without a license or insurance, as a practical matter they will be in the same position as people who do not pay income taxes because they believe they are unconstitutional. Both may be roommates at public expense with those convicted of drunk driving, where they'll have ample opportunity to discuss the vagaries of the application of the Constitution in real life.
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Old 08-17-2015, 08:03 AM   #9
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Even though they do address this issue in the story, I think it would still be a problem. Lets say they test at 7a and 7pm. I think most younger people drink from 9-midnight then drive home. They could have 6 drinks in their system at midnight and drive drunk but still blow a .00 7 hours later.
I'm sure this system helps some but it won't eliminate the problem.
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Old 08-17-2015, 08:18 AM   #10
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I'm sure this system helps some but it won't eliminate the problem.
True. Our society is continually lessening enforcement of 'petty' crimes. Legalizing former crimes to reduce prison populations. Releasing criminals to save money. Giving up on law enforcement techniques such as the "Broken Windows Theory" and "Stop and Frisk'.

In this article, it explains the person gets to lessen their sentence for DUI, in exchange for 2x a day testing. Yet, 1% of people cannot even do that.

Most DUIs are people that were not going to get into an accident, or ever harm anyone. Many people arrested were not even driving, but simply had access to car keys. Some are even on their own private property.

If alcoholism is a disease, why do we throw people in jail for a medical condition?
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Old 08-17-2015, 08:51 AM   #11
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Even though they do address this issue in the story, I think it would still be a problem. Lets say they test at 7a and 7pm. I think most younger people drink from 9-midnight then drive home. They could have 6 drinks in their system at midnight and drive drunk but still blow a .00 7 hours later.
I'm sure this system helps some but it won't eliminate the problem.
Yes, a "summons" every day at a random time ("show up within 2 hours") might be more effective at preventing all alcohol use, but the testing would still need to be very frequent in order to keep the advantage of "immediacy".
Or, a pharmacological approach: Upon conviction for DUI, the person is offered a choice of 3 weeks in jail a 6 month subdermal implant of disulfiram ("Antabuse") or similar drug. Now we'd have some real civil liberties debates!
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Old 08-17-2015, 08:57 AM   #12
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Now we'd have some real civil liberties debates!
Exactly. I am a firm believer in harsh penalties for DUI offenses, but I continually see the hypocrisy in DUI enforcement vs. other offenses. This program is probably a great one to weed out the 1%.

I have seen literally 1000's of background checks, and I know punishment for most crimes is literally non-existent.
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Old 08-17-2015, 09:05 AM   #13
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. Now we'd have some real civil liberties debates!
They would indeed be interesting, but hopefully they'll be debated elsewhere on the interwebs.
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Old 08-17-2015, 10:21 AM   #14
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Interesting link. The program is probably successful for many reasons. The article's author says

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On a clear South Dakota morning, I found myself in a Sioux Falls police station, waiting for more than a hundred repeat offenders to appear for court-mandated appointments.
Twice a day, every day., at many police stations. I wonder how it works, i.e., who monitors the testing, the record keeping, etc.--presumably the offenders' fines pay for it. If not, even if it's the best solution ever, it would be hard for some financially strapped states and localities to implement.
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Old 08-17-2015, 10:26 AM   #15
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About 30 years ago my 18 year old sister was killed by a drunk driver and I think the most of the current penalties are draconian. Especially here, where there is almost no violent crime and a bored police force.


I'm not sure taking a breathalyzer twice a day is the answer either. Police should be focusing on real crime, not handling lines of sober citizens twice a day.
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Old 08-17-2015, 10:29 AM   #16
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I'm not sure taking a breathalyzer twice a day is the answer either. Police should be focusing on real crime, not handling lines of sober citizens twice a day.
The number of alcohol-related traffic deaths around here is appalling. And if killing someone while driving drunk isn't a "real crime," I'm not sure what is.
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Old 08-17-2015, 10:31 AM   #17
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Exactly. I am a firm believer in harsh penalties for DUI offenses, but I continually see the hypocrisy in DUI enforcement vs. other offenses. This program is probably a great one to weed out the 1%.
This does seem a good solution to manage the 1% (the people that are 'the problem'...getting waaaay too drunk to drive). A MUCH better solution than reducing the tolerance (which has been the rather stupid "solution" up until now). And I'm afraid we're stuck with the low tolerance now, since no politician could get away with trying to raising the tolerance. The state limit here is .08. Apparently, though, even if you blow less, the cops can take you to the station...how's that for fairness?

I bought a "pro-grade" breathalyzer because I wondered if my beer or two when I go out to dinner puts me at risk of the huge financial penalty of high automobile insurance for years. The answer to my question was equivocal. I'm sure my reaction times are better at 0.08 than some older drivers I've ridden with (85-90 year olds) who were at 0.00. Optimally, everyone should be 0.00, but making a zero tolerance law probably isn't going to do much to save lives. This probation blowing might, though.
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Old 08-17-2015, 11:04 AM   #18
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And if killing someone while driving drunk isn't a "real crime," I'm not sure what is.
Didn't say it wasn't - however, I'm not sure ruining someone's life for blowing a .09 in his driveway is
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Old 08-17-2015, 11:10 AM   #19
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Whyt don't we get back on-topic, which is the program underway in South Dakota that Samclem referenced in his OP.
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Old 08-17-2015, 11:20 AM   #20
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The WSJ ran an article recently on a new approach to DUI enforcement/punishment that was started in South Dakota a few years ago. It seems to be producing very good results by taking advantage of the way humans assess risk. From the article (bold added):
And there's an obvious tie-in to the psychology of delayed gratification vs. spending with that last bold section, and why saving for "later" vs spending for fun "now" can be hard for many.

There's more in the article about implications for treating addiction in general.

Anyway, getting drunk drivers off the road is good, and this approach seems to be effective at doing it. The cost seems reasonable, and there are apparently benefits that accrue beyond highway safety.
I like this (the South Dakota way). I hope it spreads.
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