The Chicago Tribune recently wrote about new approaches to combating drunken driving. The article cites the fact that drunken driving rates n Illinois have been flat for the last 10 years. This suggests that additional punishments and stricter laws have not impacted the rate of drunken driving in Illinois, or nationally, and that new approaches to the problem are needed.
Illinois has adopted a strict, first offense ignition interlock device requirement for drunken driving convictions. An ignition interlock prevents a person from starting their car if they cannot blow into a breathalyzer device and register a clean, alcohol-free sample.
Most states now mandate these alcohol ignition devices for 1st offense charges. The hope is that known drunk drivers that are more likely to have an alcohol addiction problem, and may continue to drive drunk will be stopped at the point of the offense, before it starts.
Of course, there are serious criticisms of a first-offense drunken driving conviction mandate. A threshold of .08 BAC is not very high, Breathalyzers have known flaws, and convictions for Drunken driving charges are often easy to get, since most people plead guilty to reduce license suspensions, and immediately be able to drive with a judicial driving permit.
It is also possible that when these first-offense drunken driving ignition interlock requirements go into effect, the number of people taking drunken driving cases to trial in Illinois may increase significantly, in an effort to beat the case and avoid the interlock requirement.
Other innovative techniques to work to reduce drunken driving is increased treatment for alcohol of offenders. Illinois now has two special DUI courts. These are a relatively new phenomenon, based on the success of drug courts in focusing on drug addiction and treatment instead of just punishment. The DUI courts are dedicated to careful monitoring and supervision of alcohol abuse treatment and education programs. Initial results from DUI courts in other states like Michigan have shown promising results in reducing the destructive and dangerous behavior of drunken driving caused by alcohol addiction.
It is a positive development to see Illinois trying some different approaches to stop DUI / drunken driving, though it remains to be seen what the results will be.