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What Is the Recidivism Rate for DUI Offenders?

There is a correlation between repeat DUI offenders and alcohol abuse. This correlation has been established by various studies over the past several decades. There has also been evidence of how DUI Courts are more effective at lowering recidivism rates.

Back in 1995, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had gathered data and estimated that nationwide, the recidivism rate was about one-third of all people charged with DUIs.1 Since that time, states have developed much harsher laws regarding impaired driving offenses. These laws have helped deter some people from getting behind the wheel.

Updated figures from the NHTSA for data through 2011 showed that the nationwide recidivism rate had dropped to around twenty-five percent.1 However, even with this drop in the nationwide recidivism rate, the data is not truly representative of the bigger problem between alcoholism and driving while under the influence.

The NHTSA study divided repeat offenders into three categories:

  • Category 1: Arrests
  • Category 2: Convictions
  • Category 3: Suspensions

The recidivism rate in Category 1 ranged from a low of eleven percent to a high of forty-one percent, with an overall average of twenty-five percent. Minnesota had the highest rate for arrests, with Illinois the second highest at forty percent.

The recidivism rate for Category 2 ranged from a low of eleven percent to a high of sixty-nine percent in Pennsylvania. South Carolina had the second highest convictions for repeat offenders at fifty-five percent.

The recidivism rate for Category 3 ranged from eleven percent to seventy-three percent in Vermont. Utah had a rate of fifty-nine percent and Florida a rate of fifty-eight percent.

The important thing to remember is that these rates are not truly reflective of the actual number of impaired drivers on the road each day. According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), every day there are more than 300,000 people on the roads who drive while drunk.2 Yet, just over one percent of these people are arrested.

How DUI Courts Can Help Reduce Recidivism

DUI courts are special types of court systems that address the current offense but include measures to help people prevent becoming future repeat offenders. Rather than focusing on simply punishing the driver, these courts also address the root problem for the offense—alcohol dependence.

women talking in group therapy

In another study conducted by the NHTSA in Georgia courts, they found after completing the court requirements and rehab through alcohol treatment centers, there were as many as 65% offenders that were less likely to be repeat offenders in the future.3

Overall, the study found that there was a significant drop in repeat offenders that participated in DUI courts, compared to traditional court systems. In the DUI courts, the repeat offender rate was fifteen percent, compared to thirty-five percent in traditional courts.3

Similar studies were also conducted in Wisconsin and Michigan. These studies also reported a decrease in recidivism rates for participants who had resolved their charges through DUI courts.

What these studies have demonstrated is that by treating the symptoms of the problem—the dependency on alcohol—people are less likely to get behind the wheel and drive drunk in the future.

If you are struggling with alcoholism and/or drug addiction and want help, please feel free to contact Retreat Premier Addiction Treatment Centers at (855) 859-8808 now. We have treatment centers in Lancaster County, PA and Palm Beach County, FL that offer a variety of different treatment options.


  1. https://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/pdf/811991-DWI_Recidivism_in_USA-tsf-rn.pdf
  2. https://www.madd.org/statistics/
  3. https://www.dwicourts.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/Georgia-Final-Study-1.pdf