Audience: Drivers who believe that there should be lenient sentencing for first time offenders, or who are otherwise against mandatory confinement laws.
Message: We should carefully consider, and set legal statutes based on the benefits of implementing a mandatory jail sentence of a minimum of two weeks for all drunk driving offenders.
Purpose: To get people to see that there are advantages to requiring a minimum 2 week jail sentence on all drivers arrested for DUI.
The question of how best to both punish and rehabilitate drunk driving offenders has been a topic of serious debate for more than 30 years. However, there is still a large amount of dissension surrounding the topic of mandatory confinement for all offenders. People are generally concerned with punishments being too harsh for first time offenders, and so as a result, many are slow to embrace the idea of mandatory jail sentencing for all offenders, regardless of previous record. However, studies indicate that harsher sentencing for first time offenders both decreases recidivism among young offenders and decreases the number of fatalities experienced as a result of drunk driving. Thus, we should carefully consider, and set legal statutes based on the benefits of implementing a mandatory jail sentence of a minimum of two weeks for all drunk driving offenders.
Drunk driving in the United States is an expensive issue, both in terms of lives lost, and in terms of financial cost to the state. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the average cost impact of drunk driving in the United States is approximately a hundred ninety nine billion dollars a year (1). Furthermore, in 2013 alone more than 10,000 people died and nearly 300,000 people were injured as a direct result of car accidents that occurred because of drunk drivers (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 1). At such great expense to national wellness, there is little doubt that drastic measures need to be taken to discourage drinking and driving, impact recidivism, and provide true rehabilitation for alcohol dependent individuals who get behind the wheel.
The premise of using mandatory sentencing to impact drinking and driving behaviors, isn’t new, and the success is supported by policies implemented both at home and abroad. Some states have already implemented mandatory confinement laws that include first time offenders, for example. Arizona state law allows for a 10-day mandatory sentence and a $7000 fine for first time offenders. However, there is little evidence to prove the system's effectiveness in the United States. Mandatory sentencing has been used in Scandinavia for great success with more than 50 years. At least one study, conducted in the 1980s, demonstrated a markedly lower fatality rate in areas that enforced a first-time offender jail sentence (Snortum 37). It is believed that the sentencing carries the shock value necessary to reform first time offenders. Similarly, a study by Compton, found that recidivism was decreased by 40% over 24 months when jail sentence and was mandatory for first time offenders (1). In contrast however, Seigal found that confinement was only effective nm passing recidivism when it took place in a specialized facility designed to rehabilitate drug and alcohol offenders, and that one sentence and was carried out in gen-pop (5). These studies all support and increased implementation of mandatory confinement laws for all offenders found guilty of driving while intoxicated.
Many of those who stand in opposition of these policies typically site an unwillingness to place so harsh a punishment on a first time offender, consideration of drinking and driving statistics prove that most of those arrested are not drinking and driving for the first time. In fact, a study by the Centers for Disease Control found that the average drunk driver has driven while intoxicated 80 times before their first arrest (1). Relatedly, it is estimated that each day roughly 300,000 people drive drunk but fewer than four thousand are arrested (Federal Bureau of Investigation 1). The statistics demonstrated the extent to which the DUI crisis in America is underestimated, and under enforced from a legal standpoint.
Furthermore, in order to reduce the fatalities associated with drunk driving it is essential to put in place effective intervention at the time of the first arrest. A study by the US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that drivers with previous convictions were four times as likely to be involved in a fatality is first time offenders (1). In order to prevent these fatalities we must also prevent first time offenders from becoming repeat.
Drinking and driving has become an epidemic in America. In fact, roughly two thirds of all American citizens will be involved in an alcohol-related accident at some point in their lifetime. These accidents ultimately result in more than 10,000 deaths per year (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 1). The only way this loss of life and resources can be eliminated is by taking measures to decrease recidivism. Evidence suggests that mandatory sentencing for all DUI offenders ultimately lowers fatality related accidents, and reduces civism overall, especially when it takes place in an appropriate rehabilitation facility. As such, it is in the nation's best interest to enforce mandatory confinement laws for all offenders found guilty of drinking and driving.
Centers for Disease Control. “Vital Signs: Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults — United States, 2010.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 4 October 2011. Web. 21 June 2015
Compton, R. “Preliminary analysis of the effect of Tennessee’s mandatory jail sanction on DWI recidivism.” Research Notes. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (1986).
Federal Bureau of Investigation. Crime in the United States: 2013 (2013).
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “The Economic and Societal Impact Of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT HS (2014). Web. 21 June 2015.
Siegal, Harvey A. "Impact of a Driver Intervention Program on DWI Recidivism and Problem Drinking: Final Report." PsycEXTRA Dataset (1985): N.p. Web.
Snortum, John R. "Alcohol-Impaired Driving in Norway and Sweden: Another Look at "The Scandinavian Myth"" Law & Policy 6.1 (1984): 5-37. Web.