One of the strangest elements of American criminal justice practice is that some policies or strategies are often minimized because they are viewed as not being sufficiently punitive. Take the problem of drunk driving. No one who studies the issue believes it to be a minor problem, but it is typically viewed as “crime and punishment” issue and not a public health issue.
A researcher notes that ignition interlock devices (IID) can be very effective at deterring drunk driving. But it is often seen as part of the panoply of potential punishments applied to drivers convicted, like fines, alcohol counseling, license suspensions and jail time.
However, we know that jail and fines, while punitive, are not very effective at changing behavior. An ignition interlock device, on the other hand, is quite effective. It is essentially a breath-testing device that is installed in a vehicle and which requires the driver to provide a breath sample before starting the vehicle and subsequently during their trip.
It can be effective because if it senses alcohol on a driver's breath, it will not start the vehicle or will shut down the vehicle and often call attention to the stop by blinking the vehicle's headlights and honking the horn.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that use of IIDs can lead to a 70 percent reduction in arrest rates for impaired driving. Yet only 23 states use them for first time DUI offenders.
Why? Because legislators do not perceive IIDs as being punitive enough. For all of the concern voiced by politicians over the issue of intoxicated drivers, their interest in appearing “tough” on criminal justice matters often trumps their interest in reducing fatalities.
Source: new-medical.net, “Ignition interlock devices are effective public safety tools that can prevent deaths, say researchers,” September 26, 2015
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