Indiana Scores 4.5 In Dui Countermeasures
September 9, 2014 / Vehicle Accidents
About 20% of Indiana’s traffic fatalities are caused by an alcohol-impaired driver, according to Indiana State Police statistics, and nationally that number is about 31%. Whether the stats are based on local, state or national accident rates, drinking and driving is a serious safety issue. So we are glad that at the Governors Highway Safety Association annual meeting, taking place right now in Grand Rapids, Michigan, one of the topics being discussed is DUI enforcement approaches which have been successfully implemented across the U.S.
Last year the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published “Countermeasures That Work: A Highway Safety Countermeasure Guide for State Highway Safety Offices.” Let’s see how Indiana’s efforts measure up to the approaches this report says are most effective.
- Administrative license revocation (ALR) or suspension (ALS). Laws punishing drunk drivers with immediate restriction of privileges (rather than suspensions handed down by a court) are said to be the most effective laws designed to be deterrents. As of July 2012, 41 states and the District of Columbia had some form of ALR or ALS law; Indiana is among them. Hoosiers whose BAC exceeds the legal limit face an administrative license suspension of 30 days; those who refuse to take a BAC test can have their license suspended for up to 1 year. Indiana gets one point for having an ALR/ALS law on the books; however, because NHTSA recommends a minimum license suspension of 90 days rather than Indiana’s 30, we deduct half a point.
- The law enforcement activity found to be the most effective deterrent is a publicized sobriety checkpoint program; nevertheless, they are prohibited under the constitutions or laws of 12 states. The legality of sobriety checkpoints in Indiana has been upheld. Add one point.
- Dedicated DWI courts provide the best approach to prosecuting, sentencing, monitoring, and treating DWI offenders. In a Michigan study of three DWI courts, DWI court offenders were 19 times less likely to be re-arrested than a DWI offender in a traditional court. In 2002, the Indiana General Assembly authorized the establishment of drug courts, and currently there are 14 hybrid drug/DWI courts in the state. One point.
- In the category of stand-alone communications and outreach countermeasures, most effective are alcohol screening and interventions in medical facilities, most commonly used with injured patients in emergency departments or trauma centers. Patients may be counseled or referred to alcohol treatment programs. Referred to as SBIRT (for Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment), Indiana’s outreach initiative began in 2011 with an $8.3 million federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In June 2014, the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at IU announced it is awarding $360,000 in seed funding to up to nine community health centers for SBIRT services. In addition to others across the state, eight of the community health care centers in the Eskenazi Health system employ SBIRT. Score one point.
- Some countermeasures to reduce drinking and alcohol-related crashes are directed specifically to those under 21, the most effective, according to NHTSA, being the passage of MDLA-21 laws. On July 17, 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which required states to raise the drinking age to 21 or face a 10 percent cut to their federal highway funding. All states complied and adopted the higher drinking age. From time to time, the debate recurs about whether the minimum drinking age should be lowered to 18. But at this point, Indiana scores one point for its MDLA-21 stance.
We’ll be interested to hear about the innovations in enforcement being discussed at the GHSA meeting, which include thins like training police officers to draw blood from DWI suspects (Arizona has 103 specially trained officer phlebotomists) and no-refusal efforts, in which BAC tests can be forcibly administered through a streamlined search warrant process.
At Stephenson Rife, Indiana drunk driving accident lawyers in Indianapolis, we applaud our state’s efforts to reduce DUI fatalities. We offer our services to the victims of drunk drivers because we believe a personal injury lawsuit is sometimes the only countermeasure available to them. If we can help you or your family, call us at 1-317-825-5200 for a free consultation.