Not long ago we heard some good news about Arizona. The state ranks number 1 for its tough stance on drunk driving. On Labor Day weekend we saw efforts bear fruit: Arizona DUI arrests hit a three-year low this holiday weekend.
This year patrols nabbed 463 people for driving under the influence. That’s slightly down from last year’s 469, but an extreme dip from 2014’s total of 700. And while a good result one year isn’t necessarily significant, two years in a row is a sign of a possible trend.
There were even fewer underage DUI arrests.
Not all the news was good – there were a few more extreme DUI arrests , in which drivers had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) far over the legal .08 limit. One driver’s level was .428. That amount of alcohol usually renders a person incapable of operating a car door, much less a car.
Still, the waning number of drunk drivers on Arizona court dockets is no accident. It’s a sign that legislators and law enforcement know what they’re doing. And what they are doing is:
- Mandating ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders, including first offenders
- Maintaining sobriety checkpoints which not only catch drunk drivers but also raises the profile of law enforcement so that people are more likely to make wise choices when out on the town
- Suspending the licenses of drivers immediately upon DUI arrest
- Making refusing a breath test punishable by a year’s license suspension (more for subsequent offenses)
It’s worth doing that the lower arrest numbers are not due to cutbacks on patrols. In fact, the state has been increasing the number of DUI patrols as part of its efforts to reduce drunk driving. So Arizona is definitely doing something right, and indications are that it’s the four measures outlined above.
Can Arizona DUI arrest numbers go even lower next year? There’s a limit to how many police can be on the road. One thing that can be done is to ensure that every driver who is required to have an ignition interlock actually installs one. An ignition interlock law is only as effective as its enforcement, and that can almost always improve.
Meanwhile, good going, Arizona. We’ll check in again on St. Patrick’s Day.