Friday, December 21, 2007

DWI court working across U.S.

By The Daily Journal (Contact) The Fergus Falls Daily Journal
Published Friday, December 21, 2007

On the front page of today’s paper you’ll find a story about DWI court, an innovative program now coming to Otter Tail County. Convinced that we can’t jail our way out of the drunk driving problem, these courts use substance-abuse interventions and treatment with defendants who plead guilty of driving while intoxicated. Not every DWI offender is an alcoholic, but most hard core repeat offenders are. And hard core repeat offenders are involved in the majority of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. The emphasis of DWI courts is on reducing drunk driving by treating one of its major causes, alcoholism. Dr. Jeffrey Runge, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said recently that DWI courts are most useful for those who are unable to make wise choices because of their addiction. It appears that DWI courts are effective. In one of the first such courts, started in 1997, the recidivism rate has fallen from about 45 percent down to only 13.5 percent. If we are to significantly reduce drunk driving, every community should have a DWI court. We’re glad that Otter Tail County will now be one of them.

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