Why are DUIs becoming less frequent?

Why are DUIs falling?

There is no doubt that the number of DUI arrests made have dramatically fallen over the past five years. I can suggest several reasons for this:

1. The penalties for committing a DUI have gone way up; this includes vehicle forfeitures, fines 2-3 times what they were, mandatory breath ignition interlock devices, mandatory minimum sentencing and expanded eligibility for felony classification. These tough new laws have been heavily advertised.
2. Public attitudes against drunk driving continue a thirty year trend towards less and less acceptance. When is the last time that you saw a “comic drunk” in a movie or tv show?
3. Less people are going out to drink due to the economy and smoking bans. People may also be more risk-averse in these bad economic times and more unwilling to chance the financial, legal and professional costs of a DUI.
4. Less traffic stops due to less police officers on the street and the expanded use of red light and speeding cameras instead of police for traffic enforcement.
5. In Chicago, many of our top DUI officers are no longer on patrol, as many of them were caught exaggerating or making up facts. Other officers have been on an unofficial work stoppage in misplaced solidarity with these officers.

What do you think?

9 thoughts on “Why are DUIs becoming less frequent?

  1. Harold:

    The answer is number 5. Arrests from 2005 (7000) to 2011 (3500) have dropped dramatically in Chicago. The number of arrests in other jurisdictions has not dropped so dramatically. I doubt that Chicago residents are learning faster than other locations. The real answer is that enforcement is down.

    If MADD really cared they would do something about this drop. However, they can ask for more money if they paint this drop as a success, rather than a failure of police officers.

    Charlie Beach

    • Charlie: Thanks for reading and for the great response. What you said is definitely part of it. I can think of four officers who combined for about 750 DUIs a year who no longer write them. Plus I can think of a few others who used to write lots of DUIs and now have barely any. One officer told me a couple of years ago that he would avoid arrests while Weis was in charge because he didn’t feel supported; but I haven’t seen a change with McCarthy. However, the numbers show drops everywhere; I know that DUI arrests are down in suburban Cook and DuPage as well as nationally. Ultimately, the question is: is there less drunk driving or just less drunk driving arrests?

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