Every year, dangerous drivers kill more than 35,000 people in car crashes across the United States, and recently, the numbers have been increasing.
It's clear that the criminal justice system’s standard response—tickets and arrests leading to fines and fees or, on rare occasions, short jail sentences—hasn't done enough to reduce risky driving behavior.
Launched as a pilot in 2015 at our Red Hook Community Justice Center, the Driver Accountability Program provides a restorative alternative to fines and fees for those who have committed criminal driving offenses. A trained facilitator uses exercises and discussion to raise participants’ awareness of the harms of dangerous driving behaviors and to identify strategies to improve their driving. The Justice Center teamed up with the New York City Police Department, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, City Council Member Brad Lander, and Families for Safe Streets to create this intervention.
One 20-year-old who completed the program says it changed “the way I view driving”: “I realized how often I didn’t think of the more serious consequences of driving, and I will try to be more careful in the future.” An initial assessment of the pilot indicated reductions in reoffending; a more comprehensive impact evaluation is underway.
The New York City Council recently provided funding to expand use of the Driver Accountability Program to criminal courts in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Manhattan, which will allow us to reach at least 2,500 people annually. By providing alternatives to business as usual, our Driver Accountability Program is improving safety while reducing the negative impacts of the justice system.
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