Sioux Falls, SD
We've heard a lot in the last several days, weeks, and months about repeat drunk drivers on South Dakota roads. We were reminded of the deadly consequences this week when 27-year-old Michael Xayavong was killed over the weekend by a suspected drunk driver going the wrong way down interstate 229.
South Dakota has toughened up its drunk driving laws in the last several years. In 2002 it lowered the legal limit from 0.10, to 0.08. In 2005 it changed the laws so prosecutors can use DUI convictions from the last 10 years against drunk drivers. Before they could only go back five years.
Attorney General Marty Jackley says the state is looking to expand another program that is keeping repeat offenders off the roads, the 24/7 program.
Since South Dakota's 24-7 program started five years ago nearly 15 thousand alcohol abusers have stepped into their local sheriff's office for daily breath tests.
And, Jackley says the program is working.
"They are less likely to re-offend, and we've been able to show that we've reduced those re-offenses by over 50 percent," Jackley said.
The program requires offenders to take a breathalyzer twice a day or wear an ankle bracelet. The attorney general says alcohol abusers on the program are less likely to re-offend, and that's why he's working to secure federal grants and private partnerships to help pay for more tests and more ankle bracelets.
"We've always liked the PBT and the SCRAM bracelets from a sense that it deals with the actual addiction. You can't drink at all while you are on that program because the bracelet will detect through perspiration the use of alcohol," Jackley said.
Jackley says the state is also considering going beyond bracelets and breathalyzers.
"We are looking at expanding the 24/7 program to also include the interlock devices, which are those devices that you place in vehicles that you have to be able to blow clean on before the vehicle will start. So, we're looking at expanding the program," Jackley said.
And Jackley believes if they can keep alcohol abusers on the 24/7 program they can also keep more of them off the roads.
Jackley says the state has 600 ankle bracelets right now and they work well in small rural counties where its tough for offenders to make it to the sheriff's office twice a day.