Holiday DUI arrest statistics are deceptive
by Shane Dunaway
Jan 08, 2014 | 1056 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Alabama Department of Public Safety released statistics relating to New Year’s DUI arrests, traffic fatalities during the holidays and year-end unrestrained fatalities Monday and Tuesday.

According to information provided by DPS Public Information Officer Robyn Litchfield, Alabama State Troopers statewide made a total of 11 DUI arrests on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 — more than double compared to five DUI arrests a year prior.

While these numbers might suggest DUIs are on the rise, several police departments in St. Clair and Talladega counties, including the Riverside, Lincoln, Sylacauga and Childersburg, reported no DUI arrests during a holiday typically associated with excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages.

Talladega Police Capt. Leon Thomas noted a relatively quiet New Year’s period in the city, with one exception that has not been confirmed as DUI.

“We’re waiting for the blood test results to come back before we can charge the offender if his blood alcohol level is above the legal limit,” Thomas said. “Overall, we had a pretty good (holiday).”

Arrest figures for DUIs could not be obtained from Pell City and Munford law enforcement officials as of press time.

In the Christmas and New Year’s Day enforcement period window from 12:01 a.m. Dec. 20 to midnight Jan. 2, state troopers investigated 17 traffic fatalities.

The fatalities occurred in Bullock, Chambers, Cherokee, DeKalb, Escambia, Franklin, Jackson, Macon, Marengo, Marshall and Talladega counties and included eight drivers, eight passengers and one cyclist.

According to Litchfield’s release, 75 percent of those killed who had access to safety belts were not wearing them at the time of the accidents.

Preliminary investigation of the accidents revealed that alcohol was a factor in five of the 17 deaths.

The number of deaths represents a slight increase compared to 15 deaths during a similar 12-day window of holiday enforcement.

“As the new year progresses, troopers encourage the motoring public to continue to obey all traffic laws and make safety a priority, particularly when temperatures dip below freezing and ice may be present on roadways,” Litchfield said.

In a joint-release provided by DPS and the Alabama Department of Transportation, vehicle fatalities on Alabama highways dropped from 516 in 2012 to 515 in 2013.

However, the number of deaths where the victims were unrestrained increased from 252 in 2012 to 257 in 2013.

In 2013, 432 of the individuals killed in accidents had access to seatbelts, but slightly more than 59 percent were not in compliance with traffic safety laws, matching the percentage from 2012.

“Seat belts (and child restraints) are the most effective safety feature in a motor vehicle and help to save hundreds of lives each year,” said Col. Hugh B. McCall, director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety and the state’s highest-ranking trooper. “In Alabama, using seat belts and child restraints is not an option. It’s the law.”

A little more than a week into 2014, state troopers reported there have already been five fatalities. Of those, five were in vehicles with seat belts, but three were not properly restrained.

“We must be more proactive in ensuring everyone buckles up every time they travel on the roadways,” Transportation Director John Cooper said. “Our goal for the new year is to decrease the number of crashes and fatalities, promote more seat belt use and work ‘Toward Zero Deaths’ on Alabama’s highways.”

Contact Shane Dunaway at sdunaway@dailyhome.com