I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago, the title was intriguing – A Simple Fix for Drunken Driving – it had me at ‘simple fix’. The program is called 24/7 Sobriety. An arrested or convicted DWI offender visits a police station every morning and evening, for an average of five months, to take a breathalyzer test. The penalties for noncompliance are swift, certain and modest. If alcohol is detected the result is mandatory arrest, with a night or two in jail as the typical penalty.
The results are amazing. Since 2005, the program has administered more than 7 million breathalyzer tests to over 30,000 participants. Offenders have both showed up and passed the test at a rate of over 99%
Dr. Keith Humphreys writes, “Why hasn’t a program with such startling success been more widely adopted? Bureaucratic inertia is part of the problem, but I also suspect that 24/7 Sobriety faces resistance because it challenges some myths about drinking problems that my own field has done no small part to spread.”
New Mexico’s attempts to curtail DWI are failing as our death rate is back on the rise. More needs to be done, not just laws like the 24/7 Sobriety program. We also need to find a way to get our courts to be transparent and accountable (Metro Court’s 52% dismissal rate is the definition of dysfunctional). Ensure the county DWI Planning Councils and state agencies that spend millions use data and research when funding programs, not just ‘feel good’ or ‘jail relief’ programs that keep many DWI repeat offenders on the road. The ignition interlocks are NOT the answer. There have been bills introduced to use the 24/7 type program for those that claim to not drive or own a car, but support has not been there to pass the legislation.
If utilizing a 24/7 Sobriety program works in keeping the offender sober then shouldn’t New Mexico be considering a program that could be a game changer? What’s interesting, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seems to think New Mexico does 24/7 monitoring, that’s the first I have heard of it, so I’m not sure they know what they are talking about. In some NM counties, there is intensive supervision of convicted DWI offenders, but it is NOT the 24/7 Sobriety program that is done in South Dakota where the offenders come in 2x daily to check if they’ve been drinking.
What do you think? Could a 24/7 Sobriety program work here in NM? I’m interested in what you think.