Driving while intoxicated was a factor in more than 40% of the car accidents in Louisiana in 2020. DWI-related accidents resulted in 332 deaths that year.
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission is launching a pilot program aimed at reducing DWIs in the state.
What the program does
The pilot program will debut in Lafayette, Vermilion and Acadia parishes. It requires drivers who receive their first or second DWI conviction to submit to a screening for mental disorders or substance abuse problems. This represents a change from the current requirement to undergo screenings after receiving three or more DWI convictions.
Substance abuse evaluations typically take between 60 and 90 minutes and involve a clinical interview, written assessment and the use of various screening tools.
Goal of the program
The goal of the program is to reduce DWI incidents by identifying drivers with mental health or substance abuse problems earlier and helping them get treatment. The hope is that screening after a first offense, rather than waiting until three or more, will reduce the number of second and third offenses.
Drivers who have substance abuse issues receive referrals to a clinician to diagnose any underlying disorders and suggest a treatment plan. This will make it easier for judges to make informed decisions about conditional probation sentences that require the person to get assessment and treatment for substance abuse issues.
If successful, the pilot program could lead to a statewide change in the law to require all persons who receive a DWI conviction to undergo assessment.