At one time, in the U.S., prevention of intoxicated drivers was not much of a priority. In the days of metal dashboards, no crumple zones, no seat belts and no air bags, drivers often had “one for the road.” Sadly, that one might have been their last one.
By the 1980s, organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers began to make their influence felt and states began to stiffen their penalties for drunk driving offenses, a development that continues to this day. But in law, as in physics, every action may have an equal and opposite reaction.
While placing individuals behind bars for driving intoxicated prevents them from driving and injuring themselves or others, it has other consequences. For the county and state, every one of those offenders creates a substantial expense. In addition, if they are in jail or prison, they are not earning income or paying taxes, so that means lower tax revenue for the state.
The other problem with incarceration is that effective alcohol treatment programs are often absent. This means that a multiple DWI offender may complete their sentence and once the period for reapplying for their license has elapsed, they may be back on the road. And they may be drinking.
Minnesota’s neighbor to the west, South Dakota decided this was not a successful strategy, and they implemented a program that allows DWI offenders to stay out of jail as long as they provide two breath samples every day, once in the morning and once in the evening to demonstrate that they are sober.
The program has proven remarkably successful with 99 percent of those on the program passing their daily tests. For many, the need to remain sober for the daily tests has helped to refrain from drinking and stay out of further trouble.
The causes of alcohol abuse by drivers are multivariate and demand an equally multivariate solution.
Source: startribune.com, “In S.D., offenders must prove twice a day that they’re sober,” Kevin Burbach, Associated Press, September 27, 2015