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Which Is Better—24/7 Sobriety Program or Ignition Interlock Devices?

Jeff Cole
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan & Cole

Unfortunately, the number of deaths caused by drunk driving accidents has not gone down significantly since 2010. This has led to a debate about what is the best way to stop people convicted of a DUI from driving under the influence of alcohol again. In the battle against drunk driving, states are taking sides in deciding whether 24/7 sobriety programs—like the one in South Dakota—or ignition interlock devices are more effective in keeping drunk drivers from being repeat DUI offenders and from causing deadly car accidents. South Dakota is the pioneer of the 24/7 program, so you know what side of the argument our state supports.

The Debate Over How to Stop Drunk Driving

South Dakota, unlike other states, does not require people convicted of DUI to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicles if they enroll in the state’s 24/7 Sobriety Program. People enrolling in the program must check in twice a day—often at a local sheriff’s office—or wear a monitoring bracelet that proves they are sober. The benefits of the program include:

  • People who drive while intoxicated immediately go to jail—usually for a few days.
  • The goal is to stop people from drinking all the time—even when they are not driving.
  • People cannot cheat the system by installing an interlock device on a vehicle, but drive another one without it.

Proponents of states using this program argue that this program is more effective in reducing repeat drunk driving, but not many tests of the effectiveness of these programs have been done. Critics argue that these programs are geared more to repeat DUI offenders.

People convicted of DUI who use an ignition interlock device must install it as a prerequisite of driving. The device measures their blood alcohol content (BAC) before they can start their vehicles. This can be effective in stopping people from driving after consuming alcohol. However, critics of the effectiveness of these devices argue:

  • People can easily avoid installing the devices or simply use another vehicle that does not have the device installed.
  • People revert to drinking and driving once they are no longer required to use an ignition interlock device.
  • In small, rural communities, people may find it difficult to find a facility that can install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle.
  • People must pay a monthly fee to maintain the device and often do not pay the fee.
  • Some devices do not always work in cold weather, causing some people to be stranded in a vehicle they cannot start in isolated areas.

The federal government recently took up this issue and recognized the value of 24/7 sobriety programs. In the recent transportation funding bill, any prior potential penalty in funding for states using a 24/7 sobriety program rather than mandatory interlock devices has been removed.

If you have been charged with DUI, our experienced legal team is here to answer your questions about the 24/7 sobriety program and ignition interlock device requirements. Call us at 888-733-2992 to schedule a free consultation.


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