Law enforcement agencies were on the lookout for drunk drivers throughout the State of Arizona this past Labor Day weekend. Labor Day has traditionally defined the worst in drunk driving in Arizona. In 2011, for example, there were eleven fatalities on the state’s roadways during the three day period. The 2012 crackdown saw 11,000 traffic stops, which led to more than 500 arrests for driving under the influence.
The 2013 crackdown began the Thursday before Labor Day. This year’s program, called “Get Hammered, Get Nailed”, resulted 373 DUI arrests prior to the end of the weekend, with 6,800 stops at that point. While the final figures for the weekend are not in yet, we’ve made a comparison, in terms of the ratio of stops vs. arrests during the entire Labor Day weekend last year, and the same ratio this year, at least up until Sunday night. What we’ve found is quite interesting: the percentage of those stopped who were later arrested for DUI is almost exactly the same. To be precise, the number in 2012 was 5.08%. So far this past weekend, the percentage is 5.49%. So just what does this mean?
If we’re going to analyze the data, an important fact to know is that the great majority of the stops during this and similar holiday DUI task force operations are the result of random stops at DUI checkpoints. So you could conclude that about one in twenty drivers across the board are potentially driving under the influence. Assuming the validity of those figures, the evidence is actually a bit worse than that. Of the 373 drivers arrested for intoxicated driving, over one-third have been charged with extreme DUI. Under A.R.S. 28-1382, a charge of extreme DUI means that your blood alcohol content (BAC) is alleged to be 0.15 or more, almost twice the legal limit, at the very least. Carrying the analysis through to include this fact, it could be interpreted as meaning that of those who are driving drunk, one in three is a lot more than “buzzed.”
One final note. We’ve done some statistical work ourselves, and when you compare the number of drunk driving arrests with the population at large for all states (and the District of Columbia) in the country, Arizona doesn’t fare too well. Last year we were among the top seven states in DUI arrests as a function of population.
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