The National Center for DWI Courts held the first stop of the national Reform & Responsibility Tour last week in Louisville, Kentucky. Sponsored by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, the event brought together state leadership and national experts to showcase collaborative partnerships, cutting-edge research, and the best evidence-based technology for assessing, treating, and supervising repeat impaired-driving offenders with substance use disorders.
While the opioid crisis receives significant attention, traffic deaths have increased sharply in the last two years, with alcohol-impaired driving a factor in about a third of fatal crashes. The Reform & Responsibility Tour is an opportunity to discuss concrete solutions to address this growing threat to public safety.
Deputy Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, Heather French Henry, joined the Louisville stop of the Reform and Responsibility Tour to present on impact of impaired driving on veterans.
"My administration is focused on addressing the persistent challenges our Kentucky families face, the most critical of which is Kentucky’s drug epidemic. Working with the National Center for DWI Courts Reform & Responsibility Tour was a tremendous effort to raise awareness. Through partnerships like this, we can inform our communities about solutions that reduce the risk of our families, our friends, or our children being harmed by a driver under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.” - Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear
“It is time that we recognize the significant role addiction plays in causing impaired driving, and focus resources on getting people into treatment while holding them accountable,” said NADCP’s Melissa Fitzgerald, who served as moderator of the event. “Solutions exist for lowering the number of deaths and crashes attributed to impaired driving, we must take full advantage of them.”
The Louisville tour stop generated several actionable policy recommendations, including:
Screen and Assess all DUI offenders
Many DUI offenders only need that one arrest to never re-offend. They are capable of changing their behavior and do so out of fear of being caught again. But others are not capable of changing because their behavior is driven by a substance use or mental health disorder. Sometimes both. Repeat DUI offenders are statistically the most dangerous drivers on the road.
Screening and assessment can identify drivers likely to become repeat offenders and ensure they are placed into the appropriate intervention, level of supervision to hold them accountable and receive individualized evidence-based treatment.
Expand DUI courts
Kentucky is home to over 100 highly successful drug courts, but only one DUI court. DUI courts adapt the drug court model to serve repeat DUI offenders with substance use disorders. Participants are under strict supervision, which includes home visits, continuous alcohol monitoring 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.
Research on the combination of accountability and treatment found in DUI courts shows that these courts are the most successful way to reduce impaired driving, decreasing recidivism by as much as 60 percent. And they do this while saving taxpayers money: an incredible $3.19 for every $1 invested.
Evidence-based supervision and technology
In 2015, Kentucky legislators rightly strengthened the state’s ignition interlock program by mandating participation for repeat offenders. An ignition interlock is a device that prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Ignition interlock has been found to reduce repeat drunk driving by about two-thirds. Unfortunately, despite the passage of this legislation, this technology remains underutilized.
Supervision can also include continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) technology, which has become a critical tool for ensuring compliance. In real time, CAM monitors alcohol consumption and relays data back to law enforcement. Research has found the use of CAM improves enforcement of abstinence orders and is more effective than random testing.
Supervision and technology should be used in conjunction with assessment and appropriate treatment interventions that target individual needs.