Another Utah DUI Blitz–Arresting people that are Not Guilty

I saw this article published by the Standard Examiner.  The story is about looking for DUI drivers during the month of December.  Contrary to popular police belief, December and the holidays, is not the most dangerous months according to the article.  In fact the article says "December ranked seventh of all months for the most part traffic fatalities.  The most deadly month is July.

Here is the what the article says:

But even Pectol, whose office is the main repository for Utah DUI statistics, cannot provide data that show impaired driving happens more frequently during the holidays.

According to Highway Safety data, December ranked seventh of all months for the most traffic fatalities between 1996 and 2005. The most deadly month was July.

In 2002, the last year Highway Safety’s crash summary separated DUI-related crashes by month, December was seventh with 172 DUI-related crashes. July was first with 227.

In 2001, however, December was second only to August for DUI-related crashes.

Pectol said the statistics on December DUIs are mixed, but she does believe there is an increase in impaired driving during the month. Statistics, she said, can’t measure how many impaired drivers are not caught, so it’s difficult to prove if any month truly has more impaired driving.

"I think we can only suspect because there’s not a good way to gather that kind of data," she said. "Even if you asked an anonymous survey, I’m not sure everyone would be honest."

The officer then blames wrong statistics that are collected by his own agency.

It is disturbing to me that the officer being interviewed is going beyond the law and believes people at a .04 or .06 blood alcohol level is impaired.  In reality, the officer seems to indicate that if you have any alcohol on your breath and you are pulled over, you will be arrested for DUI.

I agree that people should not drink and drive with any alcohol.  That is beyond the law.  One person’s morals should not be a basis to make a serious allegation such as DUI.

Read the whole article here.

Deck the halls with DUI’s
Sunday, December 2, 2007

By Jesse Fruhwrith
Standard-Examiner Davis Bureau

‘Tis the season for holiday drinking, and Top of Utah police are in the mix

LAYTON — It’s the bourbon eggnogs and hot buttered rums that cops worry about. Search the Internet for "holiday drinks" and you’ll find that the recipes on the most popular Web sites almost always call for alcohol. It’s clear that, for many, liquor is an important ingredient for lifting holiday spirits.

In the days preceding a DUI blitz Friday night, Davis County law enforcement officials made the case that December is a special time for DUI enforcement because more people are driving while impaired during the holidays. Though most officers know state statistics aren’t hugely helpful in proving that case, many nevertheless believe it’s true and schedule beefed-up enforcement accordingly.

While staffing a sobriety checkpoint in Layton on Friday night, with his trooper hat covered in plastic and snow flakes in his eye lashes, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Shane Nordfelt said enforcement is often ramped up during December.

"During this time of year, because there are holidays, we tend to be more involved in activities such as this and getting the word out a lot more," he said. "We’ll see a lot of designated drivers this weekend. A lot of that is because … people know we’re enforcing."

Layton Lt. Garret Atkin, who was in command of the checkpoint, explained the rationale.

"Maybe what you see is more opportunity to (drink) during this time of year," he said. "People get together with friends and family and celebrate the season. I think you may see the opportunity more than you would in, say, March."

During Friday night’s countywide blitz, police agencies arrested 10 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol; two had been involved in minor crashes. They also cited two people for open containers, encountered 20 designated drivers and issued 11 misdemeanor warrants, Nordfelt said Saturday.

So despite the year’s first significant snowfall reducing traffic overall during the blitz, the enforcement showed that, like all the other months, December has a sufficient number of impaired drivers to arrest.

December?

But does that mean December is particularly dangerous?

Teri Pectol is a program manager for Utah’s Highway Safety Office and distributes federal grants for DUI blitzes like the one in Davis County on Friday night.

She repeated a common belief that December is a fantastic month for extra DUI enforcement because people who do not ordinarily consume alcohol are more likely to do so at holiday parties.

"Many people who aren’t used to drinking and only drink at the holidays may only go to 0.04 or 0.06 (blood alcohol content), but they’re impaired, too impaired to drive," Pectol said. "I don’t think people realize how much they can drink in just a short amount of time."

But even Pectol, whose office is the main repository for Utah DUI statistics, cannot provide data that show impaired driving happens more frequently during the holidays.

According to Highway Safety data, December ranked seventh of all months for the most traffic fatalities between 1996 and 2005. The most deadly month was July.

In 2002, the last year Highway Safety’s crash summary separated DUI-related crashes by month, December was seventh with 172 DUI-related crashes. July was first with 227.

In 2001, however, December was second only to August for DUI-related crashes.

Pectol said the statistics on December DUIs are mixed, but she does believe there is an increase in impaired driving during the month. Statistics, she said, can’t measure how many impaired drivers are not caught, so it’s difficult to prove if any month truly has more impaired driving.

"I think we can only suspect because there’s not a good way to gather that kind of data," she said. "Even if you asked an anonymous survey, I’m not sure everyone would be honest."

DUI arrests in Utah do not increase during the holidays nor at any other specific time of year. With few exceptions in the last three years, each month provided roughly 8 percent to 9 percent of the yearly DUI arrests, according to Utah Department of Public Safety figures.

Nordfelt said arresting 10 people for DUI is a moderate number, not particularly high or low. He said the roadblock pulled over 80 drivers. One was arrested for a drug offense and none were arrested at the roadblock for DUI.

Nordfelt said that’s just fine.

"It doesn’t disappoint us and it doesn’t surprise us. One of the reasons is the proactivity that goes on. We’re required by law to say through the media that we’re holding a roadblock. We did that, so the word was out," he said.

"Our undercover officers in bars last night were being told there was an enforcement going on and a roadblock. They were told that at multiple bars."

If people are avoiding the blitz, he said, they are likely doing something safer than driving while impaired, such as staying home, calling a cab or using a designated driver.

Despite the wretched weather Friday — by 11:15 p.m. heavy, wet snow was blowing in the wind — the sober drivers who were stopped at the checkpoint didn’t seem to mind.

"It’s in a bad spot (Antelope Drive, west of Interstate 15), but I think it’s good they’re trying to catch people who are driving drunk," said Brad Baxter, of Clearfield, after being stopped, checked by police and released. "It’ll help wake people up a little bit."

DUI at a glance

DUI-related traffic crashes and DUI arrests have increased in Utah, but at a slower rate than the state’s population growth.

* Utah law enforcement agencies arrested 14,658 drivers for suspected DUI in fiscal year 2007, which ended June 30. That’s up 4 percent since 2002, the latest data available.

* There were 2,056 DUI-related crashes during 2005, a 10 percent increase since 1997. Utah’s population has grown an estimated 24 percent during the same time period.

* There were 66 DUI-related deaths in 2006, a decrease of 25 percent since 1997.

* Possibly the worst year in Utah history for impaired driving was 2000. More DUI-related crashes and fatalities occurred that year than any other. There with 2,163 DUI-related crashes, in which 90 people were killed.

Sources: Utah Department of Public Safety and the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice

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Posted in Saturation Patrols and Checkpoints

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