The Honorable Peggy Hora, international expert on Drug Treatment Courts, including DWI (Driving While Impaired/Intoxicated) Courts, discusses what DWI Courts are and why they are needed to reduce impaired driving by substance-addicted individuals.
Impaired driving kills. The answer to ending impaired driving is: Stop drinking and driving. While a simple statement, the solution is far from effortless. Because a broad spectrum of individuals are arrested for DWI, different responses are required. In the United States, two-thirds of those arrested will not repeat the crime of impaired driving. The arrest and conviction are sufficient wake-up calls. However, some individuals are addicted to alcohol or other drugs, and the traditional approaches do not work. They continue to drink, then drive, to be arrested and convicted. It becomes an unending cycle, as jail or prison does not change their behavior. For this specific group of offenders, a different approach is needed. That different approach is a DWI Court.
Format of a DWI Court
DWI Courts are different from traditional courts. Based on the Drug Court model, DWI Courts hold repeat DWI offenders accountable and get them to become law abiding citizens by using long-term treatment and intensive supervision. In other words, DWI Courts go after the root cause, the addiction, by providing a comprehensive approach.
DWI Courts are team-oriented, with a Judge as the leader of the team. Also represented on the team are:
- Defense counsel
- Treatment provider
- Court Coordinator
- Probation officer, and
- Law enforcement officer.
Using treatment to address the why, the court uses its authority to help ensure that the person follows through by attending all treatment sessions, providing frequent and random samples for alcohol and drug testing, meeting with the judge on a regular basis, and following through with any other court orders specific to the individual (attending school, looking for a job, etc). Everyone on the team is focused on making sure the offender complies with the court’s requirements.
If an offender fails to comply, there are swift and certain consequences that increase in severity if the defendant continues to fail. And, if a person is doing everything correctly, and following the court’s orders – there are incentives or positive responses, including applause, praise, or even small gift cards. The importance of positive responses should not be underestimated, because over the long-term they are more effective in changing a person’s behavior than using negative-only responses.
Change is Hard
During this episode the Traffic Safety Guy also discusses the difficulties of changing a particular behavior. Most people forget that change is hard. It takes focus and continued effort to change a past habit. Many people make New Year’s resolutions, but very few are successful in the endeavor. Others no longer bother to make a resolution because of past failures. Now, add in an addiction to a chemical substance, especially one as socially acceptable as alcohol, and a behavioral change becomes even more difficult. But with a team of supporters holding a person accountable and always recognizing the positive efforts, change is possible.
DWI Courts are changing individuals—one person at a time—for a lifetime. And that is change worth understanding and supporting.
Have you seen a DWI Court? What did you think?
- National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC)
- National Association for Drug Court Professionals (NADCP)
- Global Centre for Drug Treatment Courts
- Map to Locate Drug/DWI Courts
- 10 Guiding Principles of DWI Courts
- NTSB Report: Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving
A Conversation with Monika Samtani
Monika Samtani is an award-winning journalist, a business entrepreneur, and a mother of three. As a media professional for over 20 years, currently the traffic anchor on Washington, DC’s WUSA 9’s Morning News, and the host for a morning news transportation segment called the Extra Mile, Monika provides a unique perspective on traffic safety. She understands the importance for all of us to “just drive.”
Going the Extra Mile
While reporting traffic crashes from around the Washington D.C. metro area, Monika sees the significant impact poor choices can have on driving. Speaking with me between her traffic reports, Monika provides a glimpse into the world of reporting traffic crashes, and why she says, “Just drive.”
During her Extra Mile segment, Monika interviews traffic safety professionals on what can be done to be safer. Her interviews include speaking with Tim Hollister, Author and National Teen Driver Safety Advocate, and Kate Carr, CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. A side-benefit of all that she has learned at work allows her to share it with her family, including her teenage son who is just learning to drive. Accused by her son of ‘knowing too much,’ Monika discusses what we all need to do to be safe drivers.
In her ‘free time,’ Monika is the President of Ms. Media, producing videos and providing public speaking training, and the founder of the Launch Network, a premiere networking organization connecting entrepreneurs and professional women in the U.S.
A New Direction
Also during this episode, as the Traffic Safety Guy, I talk about the New Year and call on all of us to take a new direction for safety. For many, the New Year is a time of resolutions and individual efforts for self-improvement. Self–improvement should not be limited to our health. Did you know that:
- A 5% cut in average speed can result in 30% reduction in the number of fatal crashes.
- Not drinking and driving significantly reduces the risk of a traffic crash.
- Wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can result in a 40% reduction to risk of death and 70% reduction of a serious injury.
- Wearing seat belts reduces the risk of a fatal injury by 50% for the front seat occupants and up to 75% for the rear seat passengers.
- Child restraints reduce the likelihood of a fatal crash 70% for infants and 54%-80% for young children.
What could be more about self-improvement than taking action to be a safer driver?
Many countries have strong national laws covering these specific issues, but the vast majority of countries acknowledge that more has to be done to enforce them. For a societal change, it takes awareness, understanding AND enforcement. Yet knowledge IS power, and each of us can make a difference; a difference in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us.
A New Year’s Resolution for Safety
During this New Year, resolve to take a new direction in your life. Take this time to understand the importance of your actions. Recognize that each of us plays a role in saving lives. Use your expanding awareness and implement new behaviors to be a safer driver.
In this time of reflection of years past and contemplation of dreams to come, I wish you a very safe and joyous journey wherever life’s road takes you.
Happy New Year!
- Highway to Safety Podcast, Episode 5 – Kate Carr
- Highway to Safety Podcast, Episode 6 – Tim Hollister
- Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over National Winter Crackdown – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx
- Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over National Winter Crackdown – NHTSA Administrator Strickland
- Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over National Winter Crackdown – MADD President Jan Withers
Impaired driving has been a part of our culture for over a century, with nearly 10,000 people now killed annually. Can we stop it, once and for all, so that no one else is killed by an impaired driver?
Dr. Mark Rosekind, NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) Board Member, is a leading expert on the steps to take to end impaired driving. In this episode, Dr. Rosekind provides an overview of NTSB’s 19 research-based recommendations to achieve that goal. These recommendations cover a wide variety of perspectives—everything from stopping the social drinker from taking the risk of driving after drinking, to getting the repeat DWI (Driving While Impaired) offender to change his or her behavior. The recommendations also look at a number of actions and tools that can be used in this critical effort, such as ignition interlocks, DWI courts, and sobriety checkpoints. This conversation with Dr. Rosekind examines some of these topics in detail, including:
- What ignition interlocks are and the critical role they play
- The DADSS program (The car of the future?)
- Reducing the BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) from .08% to .05%, and
- DWI Courts for the repeat DWI offender
Laying out the steps NTSB took to develop these recommendations, and detailing what several of them mean, Dr. Rosekind provides a comprehensive discussion on how we can end impaired driving. At the end of our conversation, Dr. Rosekind provides his suggestions on what we as individuals can do to make a difference and save lives.
Also during this episode, I talk about why we need a recommitment to stopping impaired driving, and an understanding what a .08% BAC means, referencing the B4U Drink Educator.
This podcast was also video-recorded. You can watch some of the clips from this conversation by going to the Videos page on this website.