Limiting Traffic Stops Causes Rise in DUI Fatalities
Drunk driving has continued to be a significant problem on American roads since 2016, as many states embarked on police reforms that limit traffic stops.
According to a study by researchers at Zutobi, an online driver education resource, the 11,654 fatalities recorded in 2020 marked the first time DUI fatalities crossed the 11,000 mark since 2005.
It Is a Departure from Decreasing Trend
The NHTSA preliminary report for 2021, which came after the Zutobi analysis, paints an even grimmer picture of the state of American roads in regards to DUI, with the preliminary figures showing a 5 percent increase in drunk driving-related fatalities.
This uptick in DUI deaths on American roads in recent years is a departure from declining trends recorded over the last 35 years. In 1985, the number of recorded DUI-related deaths was 18,000, and by 2005, this figure had fallen to 13,000 and slightly over 10,000 in 2015.
An Obvious Outcome
According to Leo Waldenback, a co-founder of Zutobi, the issue of drivers getting behind the wheel while intoxicated has reached epidemic levels. “It’s not always easy for police to prove that a driver they pull over is intoxicated.” says Attorney Oleg Fastovsky of the Maryland Criminal Defense Group .
Unfortunately, by the time police establish that a driver is intoxicated it could be to late. Which could, in the worst-case scenario, mean that someone loses their life.
According to retired NYPD detective Joseph Giacalone, these outcomes are predictable when you replace policies that work with policies whose effectiveness cannot be substantiated.
COVID-19 Partly to Blame
While policies may not be the only cause of the spike in fatalities in the last two years, it plays the most significant part. For most of 2020, America was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which restricted the movement of people to limit its spread, with millions losing their jobs.
With so many people doing little to nothing, drinking was the most preferred way of escaping the uncertainties of the pandemic, as indicated by the unprecedented high demand for alcohol in the first months of the pandemic. Also, lack of enforcement in almost all states as the police avoided person-to-person contact encouraged most people to engage in risky behavior such as drunk driving, some of which spilled over into 2021.
Even with COVID-19 contributing to increased DUI deaths on American roads, some experts believe policing policies also play a critical role. According to Waldenback, the increase in DUI-related accidents in America is higher than in any other country.
Policies Largely to Blame
According to former NYPD chief Louis Anemone, the NYPD always targeted specific summons at a location where DUI-related incidents seem to recur. Under Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s tenure, the NYPD target was a minimum of 100 stops for every ten collisions resulting in injury or involving DUI, which helped reduce crashes, according to Anemone.
Today, officers have to take a less proactive approach because of the existing policies. These radical policing policies started in Philadelphia due to racial injustice. According to the creators of these laws, police stops were discriminative and usually targeted minority populations.
While agreeing that some police reforms are necessary, Anemone believes some policies have gone too far, making it impossible for the police to do their job, calling for a need to find a middle ground between reforms while ensuring that the roads remain safe for everyone.