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Sobriety program may hold promise in sobering up drunk drivers

Many New Jersey residents are seriously injured or killed in drunk driving accidents every year. Drunk driving is a grave problem that affects not only people in New Jersey, but across the country.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 146 people lost their lives in alcohol-impaired accidents in New Jersey in 2013. Tragedies such as these are the reason strict drunk driving laws exist in every state. However, what if people facing drunk driving convictions receive more lenient consequences that are more focused on effectively preventing future convictions? Will this help to save lives as well as help drunk drivers make smarter choices in the future?

There’s been just such a program in effect for a decade in South Dakota, reports The Wall Street Journal. This program, called 24/7 Sobriety, revolves around a court order for repeat DUI offenders to remain entirely sober during the participation period – usually about five months. Each morning and evening, participants must report to a police facility and blow into a breath test device to ensure they have not had any alcohol. Those who fail the test are arrested and spend a night or two in jail.

Proponents of the program say that the immediate, yet relatively mild, consequences provide more of an incentive for participants to stay sober. One of the rewards includes the right to continue driving, which can be extremely beneficial for those who need to drive to work or school. 24/7 Sobriety is now being implemented in a few other states. In South Dakota, the program is said to have had a more than 99 percent pass rate in participants since the program’s start in 2005. A study showed that communities using 24/7 Sobriety had a 12 percent drop in repeat DUI arrests and a 9 percent decline in domestic violence arrests.

If the reports are accurate, this type of program may have more benefits than keeping drunk drivers sober and out of prison. It may also be saving lives.

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