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Courts Tout Success Stories During Impaired Driving Prevention Month in December

As we prepare to ring in the New Year, The National Center for DWI Courts can reflect upon real progress made in 2012 to save lives by reducing drunk driving. Simply put, the number of DWI Courts has gone up, and new statistics show the number of deaths in crashes involving alcohol has gone down.   

First, the number of DWI Courts in the U.S. has eclipsed 600. This milestone is a serious indicator that leaders in jurisdictions across the country recognize that DWI Courts are the most viable and verifiable solution in putting the brakes on repeat drunk driving in a community. States adding one or more DWI Courts in 2012 include:  Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Arkansas implemented four new DWI courts in the first half of this year.

Currently, there are 57 outstanding DWI courts in Missouri, and that number is growing. About 30 state and local officials gathered December 8th at the St. Francois County Courthouse Annex to commemorate — not only the proclamation of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month — but the formation of DWI courts for each county in the 24th Judicial Circuit, which includes St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Washington, and Madison counties.

Secondly, new analysis from The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that highway deaths fell in 2011 to 32,367, the lowest level since 1949. With regard to impaired driving, NHTSA reports that deaths involving drunk drivers dropped 2.5 percent, taking 9,878 lives compared to 10,136 in 2010. These numbers indicate progress; however, they also demonstrate the need to continue to increase the number of DWI courts across the country.  NHTSA’s statistics show drunk driving fatalities make up nearly a third of all deaths on the roads. With more DWI courts everywhere, a good portion of these drivers could have received treatment and lives would have been saved.

DWI courts are sometimes described as part punishment, part treatment, and part therapy. This combination of close supervision and intense treatment is needed to stop repeat offenders from drinking and driving.  A recent study in Georgia found that repeat DWI offenders were up to 65% less likely to be re-arrested after participating in DWI court as compared to traditional court.

December is Impaired Driving Prevention month, and throughout the country DWI courts are holding graduation ceremonies to promote awareness that the holiday season is the most dangerous time to be on the roads.

Heartfelt words of gratitude are ringing throughout courthouses. “I’m here, I’m alive, I’m healthy,” said Krista Heckman, who has been arrested three times for DWI and is one of the first graduates of the Denver County Sobriety Court. Before an audience of 150 friends, family, judges, and prosecutors, Heckman said, “Thank you for saving my life.”

NCDC congratulates the 2012 DWI court graduates nationwide and salutes the success of DWI courts. Have a safe and happy holiday.

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David Wallace

David Wallace

David J. Wallace is the Senior Director of the National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC). As director, he raises awareness on the success of DWI Courts; provides training, technical assistance, and research to DWI Courts; and establishes new DWI Courts nationwide. He has appeared in numerous broadcast, print and online publications and is recognized as the nation’s preeminent expert on DWI Courts and sentencing alternatives for DWI offenders. Before joining the NCDC, David was the Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor (TSRP) for the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM). As a TSRP he instructed prosecutors and law enforcement officers in Michigan, and across the country, on prosecuting impaired driving cases and vehicular homicides. David is a former Calhoun County Assistant Prosecutor with more than 15 years of active trial experience. He started out as an assistant prosecutor in Eaton County in 1985. After five years, he moved to the Calhoun County Prosecutor’s Office where he stayed until October 2000, when he then took on the challenge of the Traffic Safety Training Program at PAAM. As one of the first TSRPs in the country, he developed a program that became a role model for TSRPs nationwide. He became the NCDC Director in February of 2008.

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