Data show DUI calls down since 2008; authorities unsurprised

Party like it's 1999?

Not so much.

Police in Champaign County are being sent on DUI calls on New Year's Eve far less often than even five years ago. From New Year's Eve 2008 into New Year's Day 2009 to the same two-day period in 2012-13, the number of dispatch calls for DUI dropped from 14 to three in Champaign County.

"There's probably not any more people out on that night than on a typical Friday or Saturday," said Lt. Brian Mennenga of the Champaign County Sheriff's Office. "Are they out there? Absolutely. Just like every weekend night."

But he and others are not surprised that the numbers are dropping.

"I think people are getting more educated," Mennenga said. "You talk to people and they say, 'I'm not going to take a chance.'"

"This is one of the few stats that I'm not concerned about because it's showing progress," said Urbana Police Chief Patrick Connolly. "I think more people choose to stay in. From personal experience, the days of people saying, 'Let's go out and go bar to bar' are being second-guessed. It's a lot safer staying in."

And it's not that fewer police are on the streets on a holiday.

"Police are out there," Connolly said. "We do details every year focused on drunk driving. We always put additional cars out focusing on alcohol enforcement."

On New Year's Eve 2010, Champaign police responded to 41 accident calls, "so we're out there," according to department spokeswoman Rene Dunn.

It's also true that some people are leaving the driving to someone else.

"New Year's (Eve) is usually our biggest day — I'd say three times as much (business) as usual," said Redith Ewing, owner of Checker Cab, Yellow Cab and Yellow Checker Cab in Champaign. She said the only day that rivals it is Unofficial St. Patrick's Day on the University of Illinois campus.

It's not just New Year's Eve when DUI numbers are dropping. In Champaign County, dispatches for DUI dropped from 746 in 2008 to 546 in 2012.

Public-awareness campaigns may be having an effect, police say. Several cite an Advertising Council billboard campaign depicting a police officer administering a breath test, with the caption: "You just blew $10,000."

"The nation has made more of awareness programs, public service things you see," said Rantoul Police Chief Paul Farber. "Also, I think the consequences — driver's license, insurance — (are better known). Some people's conscience has hit them too, when they see what drunken drivers can do."

Connolly agrees.

"I think the consequences of a DUI today — the more people are realizing (they) will seriously impact their future — they think twice about it."

DUI by the numbers in Illinois*

323: People killed in alcohol-related crashes — 35 percent of the 918 total crash fatalities.

38,704: Total number of DUI arrests recorded by the Secretary of State's office.

92: Percentage of all drivers arrested for DUI who lost their driving privileges.

1,338: Drivers under age 21 who lost their driving privileges because of zero-tolerance law violations.

24: Percentage of those arrested for DUI who are women, who represent 50 percent of all licensed drivers.

17 per 1,000: DUI arrest rate of males ages 21-24 — the highest among all licensed drivers.

85: Percentage of all drivers arrested for DUI who are first offenders.

* — Statistics recorded in 2011.
Source: Illinois Secretary of State's office.

 

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