States Explore Tougher Strategies against Hard-Core Drunk Drivers

Drunk drivers continue to be the cause of thousands of lost lives each year in the U.S., but now several states are taking a closer look at the “hard-core” drunk driver, who typically has a blood alcohol content twice that of the legal limit and has had numerous previous drunk driving offenses.

In Michigan, new punishments for hard-core DUI offenders took action in October of 2010. This means a hard-core drunk driver is a driver who has 0.15 percent blood alcohol content or more, and has been arrested for the offense within the past decade.

The hard-core drunk driver penalty went into practice in Michigan the same day that a drunk driver slammed into the car of a Michigan resident and killed him. The driver of the vehicle had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 percent, and was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, as well as driving while intoxicated and causing a death – yet posted his $5,000 bond in mid-November, 2010.

In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said nearly 11,000 people lost their lives in alcohol-related accidents on U.S. roadways, representing nearly one-third of all fatalities on the road.

Despite ongoing campaigns and law enforcement efforts, many repeat drunk drivers – hard-core drunk drivers – are still behind the wheel, say experts. A recent statistic from the National Transportation Safety Board says that at least 70 percent of all car accidents in the previous year were linked to hard-core drunk driving offenders.

Fighting hard-core drunk drivers is a key focus for the National Transportation Safety Board, who is encouraging states to use a program based on 11 points. Some of the points include increased checkpoints for sobriety and options instead of jail that might help offenders stop the deadly habit.

Additional measures include the possibility that nationwide persecutors could give hard-core drunk drivers who are linked with fatal car crashes the maximum penalty possible that is allowed in their state. In Missouri, a drunk driving offender whose blood alcohol level measures 0.15 percent or more will receive mandatory incarceration. In California, a hard-core drunk driver could lose their license for a decade, and in Vermont, a driver with repeated drunk driving offenses will have ignition-interlocking technology placed in their vehicle to prevent it from starting if alcohol is detected.

Research in Illinois conducted by a state DUI Task Force and Risk Reduction Work Group has attempted to create a profiling tool for identifying the hard-core drunk driver. The tool says this type of driver operates a vehicle while intoxicated at least once monthly and usually has less than 12 years of educational background.

The hard-core drunk driver is likely to have family members who also abused alcohol or drugs, and is likely to have started abusing substances early in their teens. Additional research also points to an age group of 25 to 45 years old, and the hard-core drunk driver typically has previous arrests for traffic offenses like speeding, not wearing a seatbelt or being involved in a collision.

Researchers hope that gaining a better understanding of the hard-core drunk driver will help reduce the public safety threat caused by these drivers nationwide, as well as create highly focused treatment strategies to end the behavior and bring offenders to recovery.