PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota's sobriety program for drunken drivers has reduced repeat cases of driving under the influence by 12 percent and domestic violence rates by 9 percent, an independent study concluded.
The 24/7 Sobriety Program was started in 2005, giving people convicted of alcohol-related crimes a chance to stay out of jail as long as they were monitored daily for alcohol use. The study of the first six years done by the RAND Corp. and funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is the first to look at results of the program that has since spread to North Dakota and Montana.
"The results suggest that frequent alcohol testing with swift, certain and modest sanctions for violations can reduce problem drinking and improve public health outcomes," said Dr. Beau Kilmer, the lead author of the study.
Attorney General Marty Jackley released the study last week. The Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Argus Leader newspaper said the study was also published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Public Health.
The program requires repeat DUI offenders and others whose crimes are alcohol-related to take twice-daily breath tests to prove their sobriety or to wear alcohol-monitoring bracelets or test through an interlock device installed on their vehicle's ignition system.
By 2010, more than 17,000 people had participated in the program in South Dakota, according to the Argus Leader. In some counties, as many as one in 10 males had participated.
Josh Moeller, of Sioux Falls, is one of them.
"I can't say I've had a drop of alcohol since I've been on the program," he told KELO-TV. "It's either do what they say or sit in jail. It sounds better than jail."
Judge Larry Long, who championed the program during his tenure as South Dakota attorney general, said the independent study lends credence to the belief he and others have had in the program from the start. The state has sponsored studies that showed a reduction in repeat offenses, but no outside agency had verified the results.
"It gives the program some credibility at the national level," Long told the Argus Leader. "I think people are inherently suspect of internal studies."
Jackley said in a statement that he hopes the study results will open the door to funding for future highway safety projects.