As part of Impaired Driving Prevention Month Sobering Up is taking a look back at the year’s Top 12 Newsmakers in the fight against alcohol-involved crime and Impaired Driving. This post is Part 11 of 12.
One of the most noteworthy newsmakers this year in the fight against Impaired Driving came out of South Dakota, when the RAND Corporation published the first peer-reviewed, longitudinal study of the state’s highly publicized 24/7 Sobriety Program.
The study, conducted through RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center, looked at how that state’s 24/7 Sobriety program, launched in 2005, has affected the state’s public health. After comparing data from counties that used the program and those that didn’t, RAND found a 12% decrease in repeat DUI arrests on a county level after a 24/7 program was adopted—especially significant given the high number of DUI arrests that are repeat offenders. Additionally, there was a 9% drop in the number of arrests for domestic violence, a crime that involves alcohol an estimated 75% of the time.
Since the program’s inception, South Dakota has seen astounding drops in the rate of alcohol-related traffic fatalities, as well. At the time the program was introduced, South Dakota had one of the highest rates in the nation of adults 18 and older who reported driving under the influence of alcohol (21.6% in the previous year). Additionally, nearly three-fourths of those involved in fatal crashes in South Dakota had a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.15 or higher. Since the program’s inception, the number of people killed in alcohol-impaired crashes in the state has declined steadily. From 2006 to 2007, alcohol-impaired traffic deaths in South Dakota declined by 33%. In a year where the U.S. had a 4% decline in DUI fatalities, South Dakota outperformed every other state in its percentage reduction of DUI fatalities. Since then, the state has seen an additional 25% drop in alcohol-related fatalities.
According to Beau Kilmer, the study’s lead researcher, “The results suggest that frequent alcohol testing with swift, certain and modest sanctions for violations can reduce problem drinking and improve public health outcomes.” Frequent monitoring also allows an offender to receive treatment for alcohol-related abuse issues while still being held accountable for their offenses.
RAND recommends further research to see how the program transfers to other jurisdictions and how effective it is when combined with positive incentives and treatment services. In the meantime, 24/7 Sobriety Programs have grown in prominence in 2012. Montana and North Dakota have both launched successful 24/7 Sobriety programs, while a number of other states are in the planning stages. And in 2012, the 24/7 model crossed the pond when the U.K. began officially looking at the program as a viable option for tackling the issue of rampant alcohol misuse. Most notably, MAP-21, a comprehensive piece of federal legislation that prioritized impaired driving countermeasures as a means to improving highway safety, specifically called out 24/7 Sobriety Programs as a target for funding.