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Drunk driving legislation and punishment has historically focused on driving. Those convicted of driving under the influence are subject to license revocation, driving restrictions, and in-car breathalyzers that prevent cars from being started if the driver has alcohol in their system.But a different type of approach has recently been shown to be more effective.

27/7 Sobriety was a program started in South Dakota more than ten years ago. The program mandated DUI/DWI offenders to abstain from alcohol. This is commonly included in parole and probationary programs, but enforcement is varied. The 24/7 program monitored offender’s BAC on a daily basis, twice a day, and being caught with alcohol in their system was grounds for immediate arrest and a minimum jail sentence. A recent evaluation of this program looked at people who had been sentenced to more traditional programs versus the 24/7 program. The 24/7 participants had nearly a 100% rate of showing up and passing their breathalyzer tests, and reduced rates of being re-arrested for up to three years following their initial arrest. Given that the program generally lasts less than a year, these results show impressive efficacy in the long term beyond the enforcement period. The results of this and other analyses show that the threat of immediate enforcement of violations were more effective than more traditional programs, where punishment is likely to be delayed or enforced in the distant future.

Of course, these programs are only half the battle. For many offenders, that may only be “problem drinkers”, these sorts of programs may be entirely effective, and the “wake up call” that is needed. But for true alcoholics, no threat or punishment alone is enough to keep them from alcohol, and they will undoubtedly return if they are not given access to treatment or resources that will help them to face and admit their alcoholism and begin the path to recovery. Comprehensive addiction treatment and participation in twelve step or other recovery support groups is vital if those individuals are to enact a true and lasting change to prevent further alcohol-related offenses.

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