Drunk Driving: We Can Prevent It

by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.

Hard core drunk drivers are responsible for a large proportion of alcohol-related crashes, injuries and fatalities. For their own safety and that of others, it's important to identify such drivers, remove them from the road, provide effective treatment, and bring about behavior change before permitting them to drive again.

About half of all alcohol-related traffic accident fatalities involve drivers with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of about .16 or higher. A significant proportion of such high-BAC drivers are hard core drunk drivers; they repeatedly abuse alcohol and drive while intoxicated. Hard core drunk drivers are a major threat to the safety of themselves and others.

An organization committed to reducing drunk driving, the Century Council, promotes a three-pronged approach to reducing the problem.

  1. Swift Identification. It is important to detect hardcore offenders as early as possible in the progression of their drunk-driving careers. Once identified as hardcore drunk drivers, it is then important to prevent them from driving until fundamental behavior change has occurred.
  2. Certain Punishment. The perception that punishment is certain has much greater deterrent effect than severity of punishment, a fact repeatedly demonstrated by research.
  3. Effective Treatment. Providing effective treatment is essential to reducing hardcore drunk driving because, regardless of the punishment imposed, offenders will eventually begin driving again. The only way to prevent offenders from drinking and driving is treatment that brings about fundamental changes in behavior.

The Century Council advocates comprehensive programs that: 1

  1. Ensure that offenders are charged to the proper level;
  2. Provide prosecutors with accurate and complete information to obtain a conviction;
  3. Assure that sanctions are connected and reinforce each other;
  4. Verify compliance with sentencing terms;
  5. Assist in determining appropriate treatment based on previous record and intervention efforts;
  6. Provide accurate data to detect trends and determine the effectiveness of the overall system.

The organization promotes: 2

Graduated penalties for higher BACs are long overdue. Currently, drivers who speed 50 miles per hour over the speed limit receive higher penalties than those who speed 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Similarly, drunk drivers with a BAC of .20 should receive higher penalties than those with a BAC of .10 The risk of accidents increases dramatically as the BAC climbs higher and penalties should rise dramatically as well.


References and Readings

filed under: Drinking and Driving

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