Law enforcement agencies have long struggled with the issue of drunk driving. The approaches have been varied, ranging from the initiation of sobriety checkpoints to enhanced patrols to even teaming up with bars, restaurants and advocacy groups to raise awareness and offer alternative transportation.
Now, a new study indicates increased traffic enforcement appears to be the best way to stop impaired drivers.
As our Portland DUI injury attorneys understand it, study authors analyzed nearly three dozen communities and corresponding law enforcement agencies employing varying measures of response to DUI.
In places where the number of traffic stops were significantly higher, the rates of impaired driving were substantially lower. Alternatively, in places that had relatively few traffic stop, the rate of drunk driving was much higher. In some cases, drunk driving rates were double in those communities with lax enforcement.
The same was also true in places that had more drunk driving arrests. In places where there were a higher number of arrests, there were in fact fewer drunk drivers on the road.
The primary study author reports the logic is simple: Word of mouth is quickly spread. When those in a community recognize DUI laws are not only stiff but also enforced strictly, they are more apt to refrain from getting behind the wheel. They know there is a better chance they’ll be caught.
Not only are their friends, relatives and neighbors spreading the word, people can see it for themselves. They pass as people are pulled to the side of the road. They can see the sobriety tests taking place. That drives home the point that violation of DUI laws won’t be tolerated.
Still, researchers say there is more that could likely be done. One place to begin exploring would be a reduction of legal blood-alcohol levels for drivers. As it now stands, a person is considered impaired when his or her blood-alcohol level reaches or exceeds 0.08 percent. For a 170-pound male who has had nothing to eat, that’s four alcoholic drinks in a single hour.
Meanwhile, in many other countries in Europe and Australia, motor vehicle drivers are deemed drunk if their BAC is at or above 0.05 percent. For that same man, that would mean about 2.5 drinks in an hour.
While such proposals have been made by state legislators in the U.S., so far none of those proposals has been adopted.
Drunk driving has decreased nationally by 43 percent since 1982, with officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association crediting a number of approaches, including tougher laws, increased enforcement and organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving raising awareness and making it personal for people.
Yet problems continue to persist. Consider just recently a woman in Bath was arrested after slamming into a police cruiser whose lights and sirens were activated while the officer was en route to an alarm call. Although neither driver was injured, both vehicles were badly damaged. The woman who struck the officer was charged with operating under the influence.
Authorities throughout Maine do routinely hold various counter-DUI operations. Perhaps it’s time to increase those efforts.
If you are the victim of a Portland traffic accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Traffic stops persuade people to avoid drinking and driving, Dec. 30, 2014, By Patti Neighmond, Maine Public Broadcasting
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