States Mandating Sobriety Seeing Huge Drops in DUI Fatalities
LITTLETON, CO—When traffic safety professionals from across the country meet at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center next week, many will be evaluating what justice professionals are calling one of the most effective programs to make an impact on the DUI epidemic: statewide 24/7 Sobriety Programs.
South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Project, the first state-level program in the country that mandates and monitors offenders 24/7 for sobriety, will be one of the promising strategies highlighted at the 2009 Governor’s Highway Safety Association Conference, running August 29–September 2 at the convention center. According to the most recent numbers released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), South Dakota’s rate of alcohol-related traffic fatalities has dropped an unprecedented 49 percent in the last three years. South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, who first launched the 24/7 Sobriety Project in 2005, says the focus of the program is on the individuals, and what he says is the root cause of their criminality—alcohol abuse and addiction. “Rather than just ‘requiring’ sobriety, we incorporated stringent testing to ensure it. What we’ve seen is that effective monitoring for 24/7 sobriety, coupled with short, but immediate jail time for a violation, is resulting in very high compliance rates and is substantially reducing the burden that these offenders place on their families and their communities,” says Long.
South Dakota employs both sheriff-supervised, twice-a-day testing and continuous alcohol monitoring with the SCRAM System (the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) in order to monitor their DUI offenders.SCRAM, used in 47 states, includes an ankle bracelet, worn 24/7, that actually monitors a person’s perspiration every 30 minutes in order to measure for alcohol consumption. To-date, the high-tech system has monitored more than 106,000 offenders nationwide. SCRAM, along with a number of other high-tech alcohol monitoring traffic safety solutions, will be on display in the GHSA exhibit hall.
The Metrics: Defining success for the DUI epidemic
In addition to the rate of alcohol-related traffic fatalities, recidivism rates are also a strong indicator of a program’s success. In the U.S., nearly 40 percent of everyone convicted each year of a DUI-related offense is a repeat offender. According to Mike Iiams, chairman and CEO of Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS), which manufactures and markets the SCRAM System, a “preliminary study”:http://aja.ncsc.dni.us/courtrv/cr44-3/CR44-3Flango.pdf published by the American Judges Association and the National Drug Court Institute show that the application of continuous alcohol monitoring technology is driving marked decreases in the rate of repeat offenses.
Most recently, the CBS affiliate KELO in Sioux Falls highlighted South Dakota’s emphasis on offender sobriety versus ignition interlock programs, specifically targeting pending legislation that would make federal highway funds contingent on each state’s commitment to first-time offender ignition interlock laws. “The focus should be on incentivizing states to show results, including reduced alcohol-related traffic fatalities as well as reductions in the rate of repeat offenses,” says Iiams. “No single technology or sanction is going to make a dent on this epidemic,” says Iiams.
NHTSA has also launched a comprehensive, 18-month study of the SCRAMcontinuous alcohol monitoring technology and its application in the criminal justice system.
AMS plans to launch the next generation of their product in October. The new system, known as SCRAMx, will incorporate house arrest technology with their transdermal, continuous alcohol monitoring system, opening up what the company says is a substantial market for higher risk offenders who courts want to monitor and limit their location. According to Iiams, the system will be the first dual-function technology in the U.S. to combine location and curfew monitoring functions with continuous alcohol monitoring.
Last year, a new public-private partnership, the National Partnership on Alcohol Misuse and Crime, launched in Washington, D.C. The group is made up of more than 50 influential organizations, including government agencies, higher education, think tanks, special interest groups, technology companies, distillers and research organizations that all have a stake in re-engineering the way the U.S. justice system manages alcohol-involved offenders. NPAMC’s mission includes the promotion of evidence-based programs like South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Project that are showing promising results in the fight to decrease the societal and financial toll of alcohol misuse and crime.
About Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc.
Established in 1997, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. manufactures SCRAM®, the world’s only Continuous Alcohol Monitoring system, which uses non-invasive transdermal analysis to monitor 24/7 for alcohol consumption. SCRAM fully automates the alcohol testing and reporting process, providing courts and community corrections agencies with the ability to continuously monitor alcohol offenders, increase offender accountability and assess compliance with sentencing requirements and treatment guidelines. Alcohol Monitoring Systems employs 104 people across the U.S. and is a privately-held company headquartered in Littleton, Colorado.