A new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows impaired driving remains one of the single most serious threats to public safety, and underscores the need for more DWI courts.
From 2014 to 2015, fatalities involving alcohol-impaired driving crashes increased 3.2% from 9,943 to 10,265. This amounts to 1 alcohol-impaired driving fatality every 51 minutes. The economic cost is estimated to be $44 billion. The social cost is far higher. In 2015, 181 children under the age of 14 were killed in an alcohol-impaired driving crash.
The majority of these crashes involved drivers with previous convictions for DWI or a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher. Nationwide, there are more than two million drivers with three or more DWI convictions on our roadways.
These numbers indicate that for a dangerously high percentage of impaired drivers, punitive sentencing simply doesn’t work because it doesn’t solve the problem at the root of their behavior: addiction.
Research has confirmed that DWI courts are the most successful approach for repeat and high BAC impaired drivers, decreasing recidivism by as much as 60%, all while saving an incredible $3.19 for every $1 invested.
There are now over 700 DWI courts in the United States. Participants in these programs are under strict supervision, including home visits and frequent appearances in court. They undergo rigorous individual treatment and participate in group therapy. They must pass frequent and random drug tests. In addition to all of this, they’re required to hold down a job, perform community service, or advance their education.
DWI courts must be expanded nationwide to save more lives, protect more communities from the dangers of impaired driving, and lead more people into recovery.