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Ohio was selected for this study because it simultaneously strengthened two programs in September 1993 to help curb drinking and driving. The first program strengthened an existing immobilization law: vehicles were immobilized for 90 days for second DUI offenders and 180 days for third DUI offenders. In addition to those immobilization penalties for DUI offenders, the vehicles of individuals apprehended for DWS were immobilized for 1 to 2 months. The second program applied the ALS law more stringently by providing for immediate license suspension on the day of arrest for all DUI offenders.
The simultaneous implementation of these two laws presented both an evaluative challenge and an evaluative opportunity. The challenge was to determine an analytic procedure that could separate the effects of these two laws. The simultaneous implementation was also an opportunity to evaluate the effects of both the ALS law and the immobilization law. This resulted in a three-phase study. The first phase analyzed the historical effects of the license suspension program that was in place before initiation of the new laws. The second phase evaluated the impact of the ALS law, and the third phase evaluated the vehicle immobilization law in two large suburban counties in Ohio.
B. Research Design and Analysis
1. Offenders were separated into two groupsthose with licenses and those with suspended licensesand monthly offense rates for each group was calculated and compared across months by paired sample tests.
2. Tarone-Ware and Cox Regression Survival Analyses were used for studies to compare recidivism of offenders before and after the application of the new laws.
3. A time series analysis was conducted to detect changes in offense rates before and after implementation of the new laws.
C. Effectiveness of Traditional License Suspension Program
D. Effect of the ALS Law
Implementation of the ALS law in September 1993 significantly changed the timing and comprehensiveness of the imposition of the license suspension penalty. After implementation of the ALS law, 95% of both first and second offenders received the license sanction within a few days of their arrest.
To determine the effect of immediate penalty and the increased comprehensiveness of its application, recidivism rates were compared for first and multiple offenders, beginning with the date of arrest before (September 1990 through August 1993) and after (September 1993 through August 1995) implementation of the ALS law. Before the law, 15% of the first offenders received a second DUI within 24 months of their arrest. After the law, only 5% of the first offenders received a DUI within 24 months of their arrest.
For multiple offenders, the corresponding recidivism levels were 25% before and 7% after the law. Reductions were also observed in the number of offenders with moving violations. Before the ALS law, 20% of the first offenders had a moving violation within 24 months of their arrest compared to only 9% after implementation of the ALS law. For multiple offenders, the corresponding figures were 28% and 15%, respectively. Finally, and most significantly, a reduction in crash frequency was observed for both first and multiple offenders. Before the law, 12% of first offenders and 14% of repeat offenders were involved in a crash within 2 years of their DUI offense. After September 1993, only 5% of first offenders and 7% of repeat offenders were involved in a crash during that period.
A study was conducted of those in the general driving public who were arrested for a DUI for the first time. These drivers were not subject to license suspension or vehicle immobilization before their arrest. The number of such first-time arrests and convictions should reflect (1) the level of DUI enforcement and (2) the rate of DUI convictions or the general deterrent effect of the ALS law. The number of such first-time DUI convictions declined slowly over the 5 years (September 1990 to September 1995) but long-term trend was not affected by the implementation of the ALS and immobilization laws in September 1993. This suggests that the reductions in recidivism noted following that date were not due to the level of DUI enforcement or conviction rate. No conclusion regarding the general deterrent effect is possible because the data for this study included only the driving records of individuals with DUI offenses.
E. Effectiveness of Immobilization or "Vehicle Action" Law
In some locations (e.g., Hamilton County, Cincinnati), the vehicle remains in the impoundment lot for the total length of the immobilization period. In other locations (e.g., Franklin County, Columbus), the vehicle may be released from the impoundment lot and immobilized with a club device on the offenders property. In these cases, the penalties imposed upon offenderseither pretrial or posttrialcan be impoundment only or a combination of impoundment followed by immobilization.
Several elements of the law contribute to the overall impact of the legislation on DUI offenders.
The specific deterrent effect of the VA law was evaluated in two large urban countiesFranklin County and Hamilton Countywhich presented contrasting methods of implementing the law. With minor exceptions, Hamilton County impounded offenders vehicles for the full period provided by the law, and Franklin County transferred a majority of vehicles from a storage lot to immobilization on the offenders property after an initial period of impoundment. Vehicle sanctions were not imposed on 25% to 50% of the eligible offenders in both counties, and DWS and DUI offenses were recorded on each offenders driving record. Therefore, it was possible to construct comparison groups to determine the effect of the temporary vehicle loss. Neither county had enough offenders whose vehicles were forfeited to permit an analysis.
1. Franklin County Results
2. Hamilton County Results
F. Major Findings
1. License suspension compared to full license privileges for DUI offenders was found to reduce the rate of DUI offenses, moving violations, and crashes. DUI rates were 38% to 43% lower and crash rates were 24% to 35% lower for offenders whose licenses were suspended compared to offenders who had full license privileges.
2. Ohios ALS law resulted in an earlier license suspension and a significant increase in the number of offenders receiving license suspension. Overall, once the license suspension law was in place, 95% of both first and multiple DUI offenders received a license action within a few days after their arrest.
3. A significant portion of the reduction in offense and crash rates for multiple DUI offenders may be attributed to the vehicle sanctions. Though shorter than the license suspension period (90 days for second offenders and 180 days for third offenders), these sanctions were found to reduce recidivism while vehicles were impounded or immobilized by as much as 50% to 60%. However, in both counties, only 30% to 50% of the multiple offenders received vehicle sanctions. The extent of use elsewhere in the State is unknown. The data from Franklin and Hamilton Counties, however, indicate that a more significant reduction in multiple offender recidivism could be achieved if the VA law were applied to all offenders as specified in the law.
G. General Recommendations
1. License suspension effectively reduces offenses and crashes among convicted DUIs. It should be applied as broadly as possible to all drivers convicted of driving while impaired.
2. Immediately after an arrest for a DUI is a high-risk period for impaired driving. Therefore, the period between an arrest and a license suspension should be minimized.
3. ALS is an important way to achieve recommendations 1 and 2. An effective ALS law should have two important features.
4. Vehicle impoundment and immobilization greatly enhance the effectiveness of license suspension and should be applied to multiple offenders and those who drive while suspended because of a DUI offense. To be most effective, vehicle impoundment and immobilization should:
H. Summary Description of the Implementation of Ohio Vehicle Action Law (Appendix A)
2. Implementation Issues
Variations in application of the law. At the time of arrest, officers in some jurisdictions have the discretion to charge offenders under several local or State codes. Therefore, officers can charge an offender under a code that does not require the time-consuming procedure of towing and impounding that is required under the VA law. Further, delays in entering offenses on driving records may cause some eligible multiple offenders to be missed. Also, prosecutors sometimes reduce or dismiss cases to ease caseloads. Some prosecutors and judges interpret nonoffender owner involvement very narrowly while others do not.
Workload issues. The VA law creates extra work for those in law enforcement and vehicle administration positions. Police officers, for example, do a significant amount of extra work to seize and impound and then, later, club and unclub vehicles. Tracking the status of vehicles on "immobilization hold" in the police impound lots is also time-consuming, though the $100 in immobilization fee helps to offset the cost of the extra personnel hours needed to implement the law. Another example is the courts staff. Not only are the prosecutors, bailiffs, and judges affected because immobilization cases require additional courtroom time for hearings, but also all court staff as these hearings create additional paperwork. Checking the computerized driver record system is also time-consuming. The BMV staff also does additional work to collect and disburse the $100 in immobilization fee. An "immobilization coordinator," such as the one in Franklin County, can help with some of the administrative work. For example, a coordinator can track the status of offenders and their vehicles and communicate with the various police departments that carry out court orders on immobilization. Without such a coordinator, much of the additional paperwork falls to the clerks of courts and the staff in the police departments.
Communication issues. The logistics of implementing a VA law such as Ohios can be cumbersome and confusing. The lines of communication and the flow of paperwork must be clearly defined. Also valuable are a task force or committee of key participants, a court-based immobilization coordinator or an assigned immobilization police officer, standardized forms, and a technical handbook.
Vehicle storage. The abandonment of impounded vehicles of low dollar value was a problem for both privately owned and police-operated impoundment lots in both counties. This problem was somewhat alleviated when pretrial or posttrial immobilization was allowed in Franklin County. Also helpful was an amendment that shortened the time from 60 to 20 days for vehicle forfeiture if an owner failed to retrieve a vehicle.
3. Recommendations for Implementation of Vehicle Sanction Laws
This report contains five sections. Section 1 provides the background for this study and an overview of the Ohio administrative license suspension and vehicle action laws. Section II focuses on the importance of license suspension before the new law and shows how the ALS law increased the use of this sanction. Section III describes a comparison of DUI recidivism and moving violation rates and crashes of DUI before and after the ALS laws implementation in September 1993. Section IV addresses the effectiveness of different implementations of the VA law by two large urban counties in OhioFranklin (Columbus) and Hamilton (Cincinnati). Finally, Section V discusses the significance and limitations of the results of the studies and the implications of these findings.
Supplementing this report are several informative and practical appendices that jurisdictions can use as guides to implement vehicle action programs. Appendix A describes the features of the VA law in Ohio in detail and the amendments that were later needed for smoother operations at the local level and for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. This appendix also discusses other issues arising from implementation of the law including variations in application of the law, lines of communication, abandoned vehicles, increased workload, and public awareness. Case flow charts are included for each county to illustrate the logistics required for the impoundment and/or immobilization of vehicles when the order must come from a court. Table A-3 contrasts the different implementation procedures used in Franklin and Hamilton Counties when initiating their vehicle action programs. Other appendices include immobilization program forms (Appendix B), court entry forms (Appendix C), and informational brochures and materials (Appendices D and E.)