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Round-The-Clock Alcohol Monitoring Part Of New DUI Law

Washington’s new DUI law borrows an idea from South Dakota. Starting in January, as many as three Washington counties and two cities will pilot a 24/7 alcohol monitoring program. That could mean offenders wearing high-tech bracelets.

Ignition interlock devices are standard these days for drunk drivers. But there are ways around them. So technology to the rescue.

There are now ankle bracelets that can monitor for the presence of alcohol in the skin. At the first of the year, Washington will begin to pilot a sobriety program similar to one established several years ago in South Dakota.

Mitch Barker is with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. He says repeat drunk drivers will be ordered not to drink, they’re be monitored and if they do drink the consequences will be swift.

“I think theoretically it’s going to be much more promising than increasing penalties which often come late and after the fact.”

A Rand Corporation study found South Dakota’s program led to a 12 percent reduction in repeat DUI arrests at the county level. The bracelet technology costs about $12 a day paid for by the offender. A cheaper option is twice a day breathalyzer tests at the local police station.

The goal in Washington is to expand the 24/7 Sobriety Program statewide by 2017.

On the Web:

SCRAMx System - Alcohol Monitoring Systems 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."