States Requiring, Monitoring for Continuous Sobriety See Largest Drops in Alcohol-Related Fatalities
LITTLETON, CO—The release of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2008 numbers for alcohol-related traffic fatalities has sparked a substantial conversation in the justice system, thanks in part to sizable drops in alcohol-related fatalities in states focusing on 24/7 sobriety programs for convicted drunk drivers.
South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Project, the first state-level program in the country that mandates and monitors offenders 24/7 for sobriety, is seeing substantial results for a program that requires and monitors continuously for complete sobriety. According to 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.
Nebraska and New Mexico
Nebraska and New Mexico, both states with a substantial increase in their use of 24/7 alcohol monitoring technologies, also saw double digit drops in their rate of alcohol-related traffic fatalities, with both states logging 23 percent drops in the last three years. According to retired U.S. Senator David Karnes (R-NE), the availability of technologies that can now effectively monitor for alcohol is one of the key things driving improved 24/7 sobriety programs. “Tools like SCRAM have only come to the table in the last few years,” says Karnes. “When you combine these technologies with a stronger emphasis on treatment-based programs that tackle the core alcohol issue, it gives the courts a more complete tool box to help them change long-term behavior and reduce repeat offenses,” he says.
New Mexico, which for the last several years has become the model state for enhanced ignition interlock requirements for drunk drivers, saw a relatively small 3 percent drop in the rate of alcohol-related deaths between 2006 and 2007, but logged a 20 percent reduction in fatalities between 2007 and 2008. According to Mike Iiams, chairman and CEO of Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS), which manufactures the SCRAM System, New Mexico also increased their use of 24/7 alcohol monitoring technology by 131 percent in 2008. “NHTSA’s numbers are showing a promising trend for states with 24/7 sobriety programs, but it takes more than just treatment or just 24/7 monitoring or just interlock to make a difference,” says Iiams. “The programs that are bringing all of those elements together are the model programs that are saving lives.”
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,” he adds. NHTSA has also launched a comprehensive, 18-month study of the SCRAM continuous 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.
About Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc.
Established in 1997, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. manufacturesSCRAM®, 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.