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Governmental Approaches to Preventing DUI



State and municipal governments have tried many approaches to minimize the number of drivers driving under the influence of alcohol on the nation's roads. Which ones are the most effective? Which have little or no effect on drunk drivers? A blog by Professor David J. Hansen of the State University of Potsdam attempts to provide some answers. Probably the most surprising part are the measures that have little or no value in decreasing DUI:

  • Jail time: Although public opinion is to the contrary, research shows that incarceration alone has little or no effect on preventing drunk driving.
  • Heavy fines: Again, research shows that this is not effective in preventing original or repeat DUI.
  • Increasing the cost of alcohol by taxation: Nope. Heavy drinkers are not deterred by higher alcohol costs.

According to Dr. Hansen, here are some of the most effective means of reducing DUI:

  • Automatic license revocation, which is the most effective means
  • Automatic license revocation combined with a mandatory jail sentence, which can be even more effective
  • Special DUI courts that sentence repeat offenders to counseling and other means of treating alcoholism. So far, there are very few repeat offenders from these courts.
  • Vehicle interlock systems that prevent a prior DUI offender from starting his or her car if alcohol is detected. Not only do these disable the car, they also start the horn sounding and lights flashing, which would seem just a bit embarrassing.
  • Confiscating license plates
  • Impounding or immobilizing vehicles

Finally, these measures look like they might work, but there just is not enough research to tell if they will or not:

  • Passing open-container laws
  • Marking license plates to indicate a prior DUI conviction
  • Restricting nighttime driving by teenagers
  • Electronic monitoring of repeat offenders
  • Requiring states to provide factual information on DUI and include testing on the subject as part of licensing requirements
  • Having other drivers report drunk drivers via cell phone 911 calls
  • Increasing the penalties as blood alcohol content readings increase

Although some of these measures have only been proposed, they could provide a glimpse into the future of DUI enforcement.