6/1/2012 12:50 PM ET|
How drunks keep on driving
The levers that society uses to try to keep intoxicated motorists off the road aren't particularly effective. So what would work?
While a single drunken-driving conviction is traumatic and expensive enough to sober up most drivers, about one-third of all drunken-driver arrests are of people who are repeating their crime, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The most egregious offenses make headlines, such as the case of the woman arrested in two DUIs in the same day and the man accused of his 11th drunken-driving offense after dangerously passing a school bus.
Or consider this Florida man, charged with his seventh DUI. His driver's license has been permanently revoked and he can't register a car in his name, which prevents him from getting auto insurance. Yet he continued to drive and now faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted.
How do multiple DUI offenders keep driving?
"That's the question," says Jan Withers, national president of MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "Why do people do it? They do it because they can."
Taking away everything but freedom
The levers that society uses to control impaired driving haven't proved especially effective against problem drunks.
Losing your license: A first DUI conviction will bring a license suspension of at least 30 days in every state. In most states, you also will visit a jail cell. After a third conviction, jail terms can reach a year and the suspension can last as long as eight years. After a fourth conviction, many states revoke your license permanently or treat the conviction as a felony, with prison sentences that can stretch to 10 years.
In a society that wants to treat drunken driving as a mistake rather than a crime, even the threat of jail time isn't enough to stop people from driving while intoxicated, Withers says.
Depending on which study you come across, the average person convicted under DUI laws drives drunk anywhere from 50 to 200 times before getting caught. Even after a conviction for driving drunk, 50% to 75% of people whose licenses have been suspended continue to drive, Withers says.
Losing your insurance: A first-time DUI conviction can easily triple your car insurance rates and earn you an SR-22 requirement. A repeat DUI conviction on your record, depending on the look-back rules your state and insurance company use, easily can bring a cancellation.
You need a valid driver's license to find insurance coverage, but some drivers will slip through the cracks with a suspended license. For example, some insurance companies won't run a background check on a customer until a claim is filed, says George Creal, a Georgia attorney who has represented thousands of DUI clients.
"Not all insurance companies will run your driving history on an annual basis," Creal says. Even if they do and decide not to take the risk, a driver with multiple convictions but a valid license can find coverage in a state's assigned-risk pool. Creal says he has seen clients with five DUI convictions driving legally.
An estimated 15% to 25% of drivers don't buy auto insurance anyway, so losing insurance coverage after a DUI conviction isn't much of a hindrance to them, says Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America.
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So, what does work?
One of the best ways to stop people from driving drunk is requiring ignition interlocks, which prevent the car from starting if the driver registers a blood alcohol level of 0.02%, Withers says. Thirty-two states require interlocks for first offenders, according to a MADD report. The devices allow drivers to keep their cars so they can drive to work, but prevent them from driving while drunk, Withers says.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates ignition interlocks would reduce recidivism by 75% and alcohol-related fatalities by 7%.
Here are some other prevention tactics NHTSA has looked at, and estimates of success:
- Automobile impoundment: Many states automatically impound a DUI suspect's car for 12 to 24 hours to prevent the driver from climbing immediately back behind the wheel. Other states have adopted more aggressive seizure laws -- even selling repeat offenders' cars. These tactics decrease recidivism by an estimated 38% and DUI crashes by about 4%.
- Electronically monitored house arrest: This tactic can require offenders to relay a breath test when prompted by a random phone call. The program decreases recidivism by an estimated 31%, causing DUI crashes to decrease by about 3%.
- Intensive probation supervision with treatment: Decreases recidivism by an estimated 48%, causing DUI crashes to decrease by 4%.
- Intensive sobriety checkpoint program: Highly visible sobriety checkpoints would reduce alcohol-related fatalities by at least 15%.
- Enforcement of intoxicated-patrons laws: Using undercover police officers to enforce the state laws against serving alcohol to intoxicated bar and restaurant patrons would reduce alcohol-related crash fatalities by an estimated 11%.
- Server training: Training bar employees to prevent patrons from driving drunk could reduce nighttime DUI injury crashes by 17%. An estimated 40% to 60% of intoxicated patrons drive after consuming alcohol in bars, clubs or restaurants.
Alcohol-related crashes accounted for an estimated 18% of the $103 billion in U.S. auto insurance claims, according a 2000 study by NHTSA. Reducing alcohol-related crashes by 10% would save $1.8 billion in claims payments and loss adjustment expenses.
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There is no incentive to not take your chances on the road, since the penalty is the same in either case. Be caught sleeping in the backseat of your own car while drunk, or be driving down the road drunk, either way you get a DUI.
We need to spend Money on the real drunk to try to keep them off the road. Trying to keep someone off the road who is under .12 is ridiculous and a waste of money
Drunk driving isn't a felony, but selling a joint to a cancer patient with a month to live is. Welcome to America, land of hypocrites and jackwagons but we're sooooo much better than anyone else of course.
I am speaking as a recovering alcoholic. The only trouble I’ve ever been in was a direct result of drinking alcohol. I’m very thankful I’ve not hurt anyone but myself due to my poor decisions, but with me, when I was drunk, I always thought that “it would be different this time”.
My brother was a drinker. He got one DUI and quit cold turkey. One night in the drunk tank was good enough for him. But me, I always chalked up my alcohol offenses to everything but the real problem…..myself. I would blame the cops, bad luck, you name it. My Mother, God rest her soul, was a police officer. She has booked me into jail. You would think that would be a deterrent, but it wasn’t. And folks, believe me, if I ever feared anyone in this world, it was my mother, but in a good way. I feared disappointing her. Well…..and that scolding she would give me every time I screwed up.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you are racking up multiple offenses, more than likely, you are well on the road to alcoholism. Alcoholism is very powerful. Common sense takes a back burner to feed that craving. It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve had a drop and what do ya know……I’ve not been in trouble since. Peace and be careful. :o)
It's a business, the courts run off dwi and misdemenor offences, they know people will pay everything they have to get out of jail time and or get thery're liscense back, if you don't believe me ask any prosecuting attourney.
This article is ridiculous. Drunk driving is a crime, but not something that we do on purpose. It is a mistake, and its not one where people are easily let off the hook.
I got arrested for DUI last Ocober. I was treated like a hardened criminal. The police officers were rude, they were worse when I envoked my right to speak to an attorney. I was yelled at because I wouldn't sign anything until I understood it, the officer in the jail told me that she doesn't have to explain their policies to me and that she wasn't going to. I cooperated with everything the officers asked of me, even after they laughed at my answers to their questions about my religion.
$500 was put down on my bail, and I got to go home, only to be repremanded by the tow company the next day. The man told me that my car was totalled, and charged over $100 a day to hold it, and it was mandatory for the car to be held for a certain amount of time after my arrest. I didnt get to my car until over a day later, I paid $374 to get my car out. It was in perfect condition.
I hired a lawyer, I paid him $1500, a bargain compared to the $3500 I was quoted from another lawyer.He told me that I needed to take a DUI Awareness class ($40), an Assessment of my alcohol dependency ($100) where I was found to be a .5 risk because of my mother's drinking habits not my own, an 8 hour drug/alcohol dependency class ($100), a Defensive Driving class ($85).
After I was done in court I had to pay the bail bond company another $15.
Court costs of $800 plus a $150 administrative fee
My car insurance has gone up because I am required to have SR-22 insurance.
I pay $95.97 a month to have an ignition interlock in my car, plus a small $5 fee every two months when it is serviced.
I didn't think that I was driving drunk. Neither did the friend that I had just dropped off. I blew a .08. I've done everything required of me and I know that I will always be more careful about drinking and driving. As someone who has dealt with this, I think that first time offenders are punished to the extreme and that society needs to understand that people make mistakes
A buddy of mine got a DUI for blowing a .08 after using mouthwash before heading out to work.
We need to adjust the laws to give stiff penalties to the true drunks. Police and judges need to use a little common sense and not punish the mouthwash users or people who had a glass of wine with dinner. No drunk would ever blow a .08 because it's impossible for them to stop drinking with that little amount of alcohol in their system.
I don't like how they make an arbirary number up and then it's magic! You have a DUI. Not everyone is the same.
It's a big money maker for everyone.
We have dry townships in our state and you can't walk to a local bar.
No public transportaion and they will give you a DUI if you ride a bicycle.
In Atlanta, I saw a measure to prevent drunk driving more effective than any of these.
The person who's drunk usually doesn't want to drive that way, but he must get home, and he must have his car the next morning. Taxis don't solve this problem - the drunk's car is towed to a remote impound lot while he's home sleeping it off, costing hundreds of dollars, possibly making him miss work, school, an appointment or other activity. Draconian laws don't solve the problem either - as a society we're dependent on the automobile, and our right to consume alcohol was established with the repeal of Prohibition. So jailing them or taking their cars just makes them dependent on the state for survival.
One entrepeneur in Atlanta bought a small folding motorcycle with a vinyl carrying case. For $25, he comes to the bar on his bike, puts it in the trunk or bed or back seat of the drunk's vehicle, drives the drunk home in his own vehicle, then leaves on the bike to pick up the next drunk.
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