Four years ago, I had a post entitled “Why are DUIs becoming less Frequent?” I gave five reasons, which I will copy here:
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.
DUIs continue to drop. According to this Daily Herald story, DUI arrests in the Chicago suburbs have dropped to nearly half of what they were back in 2007. Jake Griffin reports that:
The number of drunken driving arrests is dropping sharply across the suburbs, although local police say they’re spending as much time on enforcement as ever.
The number of crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers also decreased sharply five years ago and have held steady ever since.
Does that mean the war on drunken driving is being won? And if so, should some of the funds being spent on those efforts be shifted elsewhere? The various camps involved in the issue — law enforcement, lawyers and awareness groups — have differing views.
DUI arrest totals last year in 79 suburbs were about half what they were in 2007, despite only a small drop in police staffing. There were 6,955 arrests last year, compared to 12,166 in 2007, according to annual state-funded surveys compiled by the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.
Meanwhile, those same suburbs in six counties reported 1,555 crashes involving alcohol-impaired driving in 2007, according to Illinois Department of Transportation crash reports. By 2009, that number was down to 1,012 alcohol-impaired crashes, and it has hovered near that mark ever since, with 1,065 crashes in 2014, the reports show.
Whatever the reason, this is a positive trend, and lets hope that it continues.