Early in the morning in Grand Junction, Colorado Ellie Phipps was driving to the gym when her car was struck from behind by John Wesley Plotner. He hit her at 45 miles per hour, shattering her spine. She survived the accident but now wears a back brace. Plotner was subsequently convicted of his seventh DUI.
States enforced stricter laws in an effort to crack down on DUI offenders. New Mexico is even planning to publicize the cases of repeat DUI offenders via Twitter. In some cases these tough stances are working, as is the case with underage drivers. But for habitual offenders jail time and suspended licenses are not always an effective deterrent. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reports that "50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license." However, there are other methods of DUI prevention that are available and used in many states, such as sobriety checkpoints and ignition interlock devices that have varying methods of efficiency. In addition, new methods are being developed for future use.
Sobriety checkpoints are employed by police departments around the country to deter driving while intoxicated. According to the CDC, 38 states as well as Washington, D.C. are authorized to conduct sobriety checkpoints. However, these states do not often use this deterrent, with just 13 states conducting sobriety checkpoints every week due to a lack of resources. Studies done on the effectiveness of checkpoints shows that how effective they are varies. One 2002 study "found that checkpoints reduced alcohol-related fatal, injury, and property damage crashes each by about 20 percent." Another study in 2008 found that programs that were "highly visible" and given "intensive publicity" were effective in reducing "alcohol-related fatalities between 11 and 20 percent." By contrast, "States with lower levels of enforcement and publicity did not demonstrate a decrease in fatalities relative to neighboring States."
Another method used in most states to prevent drunk driving are ignition interlock devices. These devices prevent drivers from starting their cars if there is a "measurable amount of alcohol in their system." 26 states have laws that require everyone with a DUI conviction be required to use an ignition interlock device and more states are looking at similar legislation. These devices seem to be more efficient as they reduce the rate of re-arrest for a DUI by around 64%. Of course nothing is going to prevent someone from using a different car or cheating the system, which is why MADD is looking at new technology.
MADD is exploring other alcohol detection devices that would prevent impaired driving through the DADSS program. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) program is researching new technology that would become a safety option in new cars in the future. The goal of these futuristic devices would be to "automatically detect when a driver is intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above .08 - the legal limit in all 50 states - and prevent the car from moving." The program is looking at a breath-based system and a touch-based system.
As the average drunk driver has driven while intoxicated 80 times prior to being arrested once, preventative measures are important to keep people from making bad choices and potentially injuring others. If you or someone you know made the decision to drive while impaired and are now facing charges, please do not hesitate to contact my office today.