Nearly five years ago, I posted a blog about “Why are DUIs becoming less frequent?” where I noted that DUI arrests were going down and I posited some ideas about why. That was before the rise of ride sharing apps, which may be an additional factor as well as the trends which I mentioned before which have not changed.
My thoughts back then were:
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.
The proof of this is in the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (“AAIM”) latest report which shows that DUI arrests in Chicago have dropped in half over the past ten years.
Chicago DUI arrests have steadily declined: 3,395 in 2013, down significantly from the 2000s, when the Police Department charged 4,341 in 2009, 5,262 in 2008 and 6,257 in 2007.
The story gives some possible reasons for the decline:
Bob Cebrzynski, president of the alliance’s board of directors, called it “an encouraging sign,” saying, “Maybe public awareness over the last 20 years with ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ is finally hitting home.
“Maybe Uber has something to do with it,” he added. “Maybe Lyft has something to do with it.”
Police officials, however, say decades of common-sense advisories on the dangers of drinking and driving are finally sinking in.
Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that for the last several years police and other agencies “have been doing a lot to raise awareness on the dangers of drinking and driving. Between all of the federal campaigns like ‘over the limit, under arrest’ and proactive enforcement from state and local police departments, I think people are much more aware of the dangers today than perhaps 10 years ago.
“Also, I think the zero-tolerance approach has begun to resonate and thankfully we see much fewer tragedies.”
Chicago Police have targeted given areas for enforcement, including roadside stops, in an effort to combat and discourage drunken driving.
At the same time, public-service campaigns have put the cost of defending a DUI charge at $10,000 and up, a powerful deterrent on top of the stigma and the simple danger involved in getting caught driving drunk.
Whatever the reasons, the results are encouraging.