RALEIGH, N.C. — Every year, 84,000 drunken drivers pass through North Carolina's judicial system. Nearly half are re-offenders, or drivers who had a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit.
Driving while impaired is a crime that gets a lot of attention from law enforcement. Jail, probation or treatment are typical ways of dealing with the problem.
Now, there may be another one.
A device that provides secure continuous remote alcohol monitoring could be the future of drunk-driving enforcement.
Called SCRAM for short, the device monitors a person's alcohol intake 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no matter where they go.
"We've got people under our drug-court monitoring, that they start with alcohol, they move to crack cocaine, they move to violence," Judge Joe Buckner said. "If alcohol is the trigger, than why not stop it?"
Buckner said the SCRAM device also has health advantages.
"We know women should not drink when they're pregnant," he said. "Maybe the Health Department wants to use this as a tool."
When asked someone can make a pregnant woman wear such a device, Buckner said: "You might have a woman who voluntarily wants to wear this. We learned from some of the exit interviews that people in voluntary recovery said: 'I was able to look at this bracelet, and it reminded me that I couldn't drink.'"
The SCRAM device is monitored around the clock, and it gives a real time account of a person's intake. Buckner said he is going to use them in his drug court in Chatham and Orange counties, as well as for repeat DWI offenders.
When asked if he had a financial incentive for pushing the device, the judge said no. He just believes it will help.