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Study Finds that Immediately Revoking Licenses Helps Deter Drunk Driving

July 26, 2007

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- A new study concludes that suspending a drunk driver's license immediately at the time of arrest, rather than waiting for a possible criminal conviction, is a much more effective way of keeping drunk drivers off the road. The study, which appears in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, assesses data from 46 states. It concludes that a nationwide policy of immediate license revocation would result in saving at least 800 lives in the U.S. each year, Time magazine reported.The study's lead author was Alexander Wagenaar, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida's College of Medicine. He looked at fatal alcohol-related car accidents in 46 U.S. states from Jan. 1976 to Dec. 2002."The speed with which the punishment is applied is very important, and in our society we've had a long-standing focus on the severity of the punishment," Wagenaar said. "The punishment does not have to be draconian to have an effect in shaping the behavior that we want to deter, in this case drunk driving. A driving-license suspension for a couple of months is a modest penalty, but when it's applied immediately, it's effective."A total of 41 states now have license-revocation laws in place. The nine that don't are Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Tennessee. But most of these states have policies that let law enforcement revoke a driver's license after conviction, or immediately with repeat offenders. Wagenaar's study, however, found that such laws have little success in deterring drunk driving or reducing fatalities.
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