In a country where alcohol-related crash stastistics have been generally on the downturn for years, it’s always distressing to hear about a rise in DUI collisions. In this case, the city is Flagstaff, which saw its rate of alcohol-related crashes go from 64 to 87 in one year.

An increase in any given year could be an anomaly. But a shortage of police officers might account for the rise in Flagstaff DUI crashes. A year and a half ago Flagstaff’s police chief warned that the force was losing staff due to low pay and high workload. Currently the FPD is severely understaffed.

Too few police would of course explain why there were fewer traffic citations and DUI arrests.

And the lower DUI arrest rate might, in part, explain the crashes. Thanks to Arizona’s tough drunk driving laws, anyone convicted of driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher must install an ignition interlock. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

That means that a great number of Arizona arrests lead to a drunk driver that is effectively removed from the road. And a lack of arrests means that the driver is still on the road, a collision waiting to happen.

Strong drunk driving laws are the foundation of an anti-DUI operation, but enforcement is also vital. At present, thanks to money woes, the excellent laws that Arizona has passed are going, in part, unenforced.

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