Twice daily breath tests help drivers remain sober

Different states have tried differing methods of dealing with drunk driving. Tennessee, like many states, relies on incarceration and fines as a primary means of deterring drunk driving. This system has been modestly effective at deterring some people from intoxicated driving, but it has its limits.

As headlines that tout some drivers’ multiple arrests make clear, throwing drivers in jail for varying lengths of time is not always effective for those with chronic substance abuse and addiction problems. While warehousing them in jail keeps them off the streets, it is expensive for county and state governments and when they are eventually released, they are often arrested for yet another violation.

South Dakota found it was rapidly filling its jails and for the small state, the financial burden became very noticeable. So they tried a different approach. They allow those arrested to “prove” they are sober twice a day and avoid jail. In the state’s largest city, there is an office where offenders can stop by and provide a breath sample, in person.

Those in rural areas can be required to have ignition interlock systems installed on their vehicles or wear alcohol-monitoring bracelets. The state’s success with the program, which in a decade of use, has a 99 percent passing rate for participants, has inspired two  other states to use similar systems and five more at considering such a program.

In addition to reducing the state’s repeat DUI rate by 12 percent, it also led to a reduction in domestic violence rates.

There is no one reason why people drink and drive, and no one program can “fix” all alcohol-related problems, but active programs that help individuals remain sober and don’t merely warehouse them after an offense, are better for the individuals and the state.

Source:, “States monitor alcohol offenders with twice-daily tests,” Kevin Burbach, Sept. 27, 2015

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