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A Possible Solution to Drunken Driving

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"These devices really do work well to lower repeat DUI offenses as long as they're in the car, but as soon as you take them off the car, they [DUI offenders] go right back up to control levels, they don't sort of take anything with them after having their behavior monitored. ... They don't seem to learn," Marques tells WebMD.

So the next step, Marques says, "was to try and implement a program where we get inside their heads a little bit while we essentially have them captive of the interlock program."

The drivers were split into two groups, one from Edmonton and one from Calgary. Every month, when the Calgary group visited an interlock service center, they underwent a four-part program that includededucation about the interlock. That "force[d] them to think about the pragmatic implications of staying compliant with the program, by using a technique known as brief intervention and motivational interviewing," Marques says.

The sessions weren't therapy, in that the interviewers had no interest in getting the participants to stop drinking. Although worthy, the issue is one of public, not individual, health, Marques says. "It [turned] into more of a public health problem, because we don't want you guys out there drinking and driving because then we're all at risk."

The peak times for fail rates were on weekends, which kept drunken drivers off the roads at the highest risk times, and surprisingly, between seven and eight in the morning. The researchers write some of that could be attributed, perhaps, to mouthwash or certain foods. But there's another reason, too, and this one can benefit not just the public, but the individual.

"What this thing is doing is very interesting," Marques tells WebMD, "because if I'm a real heavy drinker ... I need to get in my car the next morning to start it up for work. Well, the time of day we have the highest frequency of BAC [failures] is between 7 and 8 in the morning. That has such a wonderful educational value, because these people don't feel drunk, they've got no idea that their BAC is still elevated."

Marques says final results are still being tabulated, but he says among the group from Calgary, there's about a 50% reduction in rate of reoffenses among first-time offenders after the interlock is off.

The data have also proven useful as a predictor of behavior, because even though the experience may never change some people's actions, the information may change the actions of the court. "The people who had a higher proportion of failed BACs than anyone else, and that represents about 15% of the sample, that was the most potent predictor of repeat DUI offenses of anything any of us have ever seen," Marques tells WebMD. "The likelihood that they would blow failed BACs was a powerful, powerful predictor of who's going to get a repeat DUI once that interlock's off the car, and that actually gets to be the kind of finding that the courts can make use of.

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