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DUI Intervention Programs and Preventative Measures

Because of the scope and severity of the problem of DWI/DUI in the United States, it is vital that the most effective forms of intervention are identified and implemented systematically. Millions of dollars have been allocated to researching how the problems of DWI/DUI may be managed. Law enforcement, courts, social services, and medical care systems for physical and mental health are continuously assessing what mechanisms of intervention have the highest success rates, and have the longest impact on DWI/DUI offenders. Research suggests that the best strategy for intervention—the best way to prevent repeat offenders of DWI/DUI—is a multi-component program of medical and psychological treatments and legal penalties and sanctions.

Agents of Intervention in Action Moments

Most of us have seen public service announcements, or experienced in our own lives the courageous and thoughtful individual who emerges in a social situation to prevent a friend from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This personal tactic has consistently been a feature of educational programs to prevent DWI/DUI. That the social pressure of an intervening friend or acquaintance has considerable impact on individuals’ decisions to forego risky and illegal behavior leads researchers to ask about the exact communication strategies and characteristics of the intervening agent him/herself. What messaging does an intervening person rely on to dissuade someone from driving under the influence? What kind of person, what type of friend, is statistically most successful in persuading someone? 1 Responding to these questions, researchers aim to provide guidelines for effective public health and safety campaigns.

Mechanisms for Prevention

  • Intensive Supervision Programs – Intensive Supervision programs are an alternative to incarceration, and involve various restrictive and therapeutic practices, including “intense supervision (such as electronic monitoring), self-help, randomized alcohol and drug testing, license sanctions, interlocks, sale of vehicle, home confinement and community service.” 2
  • DWI/DUI Courts – Because DWI/DUI offenses are tragically common, and place a tremendous burden on the criminal court system, a separate structure has been implemented in many states so that DWI/DUI cases are dealt with expediently. As an extension of the drug court model, DWI/DUI courts oversee recidivist offenders’ treatment, and dispenses penalties for sentence noncompliance.
  • Victim Impact Panels (VIPs) – The purpose of Victim Impact Panels is to present DWI/DUI offenders with the concrete consequences of their actions for individuals and families in their community. Speakers typically include injured victims of DWI/DUI accidents and individuals or families who have lost loved ones. The format of the panel is to describe in a non-judgmental manner how DWI/DUI accidents impact people’s lives without necessarily indicting the behavior of the audience, or placing blame on them.
  • Education Programs – A person convicted of DWI/DUI may be mandated to complete an educational program about the physical and psychological effects of alcohol and suggesting alternatives to driving under the influence of a controlled substance (drugs or alcohol).
  • Ignition Interlock – Unlike the preventative measures listed above, an ignition interlock is purely technical, which is why it is most often prescribed by a DWI/DUI court in conjunction with other strategies such as substance abuse treatment. An ignition interlock is installed in a car such that, before the car ignition starts, the driver must report a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) below a certain point (usually 0.02%). Most often, the test is administered through a breathing apparatus.
  • Enforcement strategies, including “sobriety checkpoints” – Data driven research has identified certain locations as high crime or crash areas, where law enforcement may be stationed preventatively. These are sometimes called “sobriety checkpoints,” where police may stop any or all drivers and administer breath tests if there is suspicion of intoxication. Sobriety check points are not permitted in the state of Texas. 3

Geo-Spatial Hot Spot Interventions

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies’ Roadway Safety Institute have developed methods for identifying and studying alcohol-related crash hot spots. The initiative focuses on spatial autocorrelation and interpolation, basically aggregating data about the locations where crashes are statistically likely to occur. The objective of the project is to facilitate effective patrolling, safety enforcement, and public awareness campaigns. The report notes,

Mapping crash locations allows for a visual identification of high impact locations, trends, and outliers. This visual identification follows the goal of Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS), set out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is to develop a data driven approach to identify geospatial areas with higher crash and crime problem areas (US DOT, 2009).4

“This method guides officers to statistically significant locations where intoxicated drivers are most likely to be, allowing officers to be more accurate while patrolling. Additionally, this method allows officers to pass through more alcohol-related crash locations per minute and mile than current patrolling practices. By improving how officers patrol, individuals may be deterred from driving while intoxicated, and alcohol-related crashes may be ultimately reduced.” 5

References

1 Lisa Buckley, Rebekah L. Chapman, and Ioni Lewis, “A Systematic Review of Intervening to Prevent Driving While Intoxicated: The Problem of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI),” Substance Use and Misuse 51 (2016): 104-112.

2 Peter G. Miller, “Effectiveness of Interventions for Convicted DUI Offenders in Reducing Recidivism: A Systematic Review of the Peer-reviewed Scientific Literature,” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 41 (2015): 26.

3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sobering Facts: Drunk Driving in Texas, LINK

4 William H. Schneider IV, Alcohol-Related Hot-Spot Analysis and Prediction. University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies’ Roadway Safety Institute. LINK, p. 15.

5 William H. Schneider IV, Alcohol-Related Hot-Spot Analysis and Prediction. University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies’ Roadway Safety Institute. file:///C:/Users/harte/Downloads/CTS17-04%20(2).pdf, p. 2. See also International Council on Alcohol, Drugs, & Traffic Safety, Reporter 28.3 (2017): 4. LINK

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