A new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows impaired driving remains one of the single most serious threats to public safety, and underscores the need for more DWI courts.
According to the report, fatalities involving alcohol-impaired driving crashes increased 3.2% last year, from 9,943 in 2014 to 10,265 in 2015. in other words, someone is killed in an alcohol-impaired driving crash every 51 minutes. The economic cost is staggering, estimated at $44 billion. The social cost is far higher: in 2015, 181 children under the age of 14 were killed in an alcohol-impaired driving crash.
The majority of these crashes involved drivers with previous convictions for driving while impaired (DWI) or a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher. Nationwide, there are more than 2 million drivers with three or more DWI convictions on our roadways. These numbers indicate that for a dangerously high percentage of impaired drivers, punitive sentencing simply doesn’t work because it doesn’t solve the problem at the root of their behavior: addiction.
Research has confirmed that DWI courts are the most successful approach for repeat and high-BAC impaired drivers, decreasing recidivism by as much as 60%, all while saving an incredible $3.19 for every $1 invested.
There are now over 700 DWI courts in the United States, but this is not nearly enough to serve everyone in need. The National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC) is working diligently to expand these court programs to save more lives, protect more communities from the dangers of impaired driving, and lead more people into long-term recovery.