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It's pretty common for someone convicted of a DUI to attend some kind of DUI class, where instructors and attendees discuss the reasons for and consequences of drinking and driving. The hope is that those attending a DUI course will learn and implement strategies to avoid future drunk driving incidents.
However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that a third of all DUI arrests every year are repeat offenders. Which begs the question: If so many DUI offenders are taking drunk driving courses, why are they drinking and driving again?
Kentucky's WDRB looked at DUI courses in the state, and the requirements based on DUI convictions. Those who plead guilty to or are convicted of a DUI generally must complete a 20-hour class, which includes fees for assessments, class materials, and each class session:
In the assessment, the instructor will ask questions about how often a person drinks, whether or not the person uses drug and if there are any known triggers. The classes and book cover facts about alcohol, drugs and legal consequences. But it also is designed to spark discussions about what triggers a person to drink and drive, the risks they take and better choices.
Repeat DUI convictions can trigger additional courses. In Kentucky, a second DUI conviction could mean an additional 50 sessions, which generally lasts six months. A third or fourth DUI offense, and one-year courses are mandatory.
Despite all this coursework, many DUI offenders are attending classes for the third or fourth time, according to Richard Epley, the director of the Kentucky Driving School. "You got a lot of people that come to these classes," Epley told WDRB. "And they don't think they should be here. And they have a bad attitude." For Epley, all the courses in the world won't help if the person doesn't want to stop drinking. "If they don't want to stop," he said, "the only way they're going to do it is either go to prison for however long the judge wants to put them there, or they go out and kill themselves or someone else, and they have to go to prison."
So why keep assigning classes if they don't seem to work? And are repeat offenders better suited for addiction therapy rather than class sessions? Or, as Epley suggests, is prison the only answer?
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