A conference has been told that a US state, which is trialling a scheme that breathalyses drunk drivers twice a day, has seen a reduction in repeat offences.
South Dakota began the trial program, dubbed the 24/7 Sobriety Project, in 2005. Initially the project was targeted at people repeatedly caught drink driving and aimed to cut the rate of recidivism by encouraging sobriety 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In order to maintain their freedom while on bail, parole or a suspended sentence, participants are required to turn up for alcohol testing twice a day. A failed test results in a short jail term, usually a day or two, while skipping out on a scheduled test could lead to a warrant for arrest and jail time.
Failing or skipping a test might mean that bail or probation is revoked, or that bond money being forfeited. In time, the program has been expanded to include first time drink drivers, as well as other types of offenders, including those arrested for assault, domestic violence and child abuse or neglect.
Findings from research on the program were discussed at the Annual Scientific Alcohol and Drug Conference, which started during the weekend in Perth.
Professor Beau Kilmer from the RAND Drug Policy Center in California told the ABC, “It’s an innovative program that’s intended to reduce heavy alcohol consumption for those individuals whose use leads them to repeatedly threaten public health and public safety”.
Findings from one study that studied the Sobriety Project have concluded that the program has led to a 12 per cent reduction in repeat drink driving offences and a nine per cent reduction in domestic violence in areas where the scheme is active.
The same study said there was no reduction in first time drink driving offences or overall traffic crashes, although there was a drop in accidents involving males aged 18 to 40.
According to Attorney General’s office of South Dakota, over 99 per cent of breathalyser tests done as part of the scheme were passed. Fifty-five per cent of participants never failed a test, 16.7 percent fail only once, 12.5 fail only twice, and 16.9 percent fail three times or more.
The project has been expanded to some other jurisdictions, and now also includes testing for drugs, ankle bracelets that can monitor for alcohol, and ignition interlocks.
Michael Farrell, director of the National Drug and Alcohol and Research Centre, told the national broadcaster, “It’s well worth seeing if the program can be replicated in Australia”.