Ankle Device Monitors Alcohol Consumption

ByABC News via via logo

Dec. 30, 2005— -- Braden Hopkins was 10 years old when a drunken driver ran a red light and smashed into the car driven by his aunt in July 2003. He was killed almost instantly.

"It was just unbelievable," said Velma Woods, Braden's aunt. "He had his seatbelt on. And then to know that it still happened, you know, the way that it did. Just from the impact, he was crushed."

The driver, Rocky Anderson, pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter. In addition to serving 10 years' probation, he was ordered to wear a device called SCRAM on his ankle. SCRAM, which stands for secure continuous remote alcohol monitor, allows courts in almost 30 states to monitor an offender's alcohol intake during probation by testing the skin's perspiration every hour.

After an offender consumes a few drinks, the device relays the information to a computer where the results can be checked. The system can also tell whether the device has been tampered with and, in some states, the offender is also monitored by the global positioning system so authorities know his or her location. There are 2,200 people in the United States being monitored by SCRAM.

"For 15 years, I've been dealing with repeat offenders, and this is the greatest device I've ever seen," said Larry Vanderwoude of Recovery Healthcare in Dallas. "We can watch them 24/7 and know they're not drinking at midnight or on the weekends when no one is around."

John, who asked that his real name not be used, was ordered to wear a SCRAM after his fourth arrest for drunken driving. He said it helped him get sober after 27 years of addiction.

"There's a very good chance that I would either be dead or I would have killed someone," he said. "I know it was a device I needed to make my recovery work."

Braden's family believes that the device will help prevent more needless deaths.

"The sad thing about it is, it's like after the fact for my family," Woods said. "You know, I wish that it could have been prior to. And then we wouldn't be sitting here … ."

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