Wednesday, October 30, 2013

News reports about liquor privatization and DUI cases are misleading

The recent headline: Fall of DUI Cases Continues after Liquor Sales Privatization is misleading.  As is the case with most changes to public policy, it is difficult to make a direct correlation between the change in alcohol policy with a change in DUI cases within a year of the change taking place. 

Are police staffing issues related to a decrease in DUI arrests?

Most of the article states that the privatization of liquor sales after the passage of I-1183 has had no affect on arrests for driving under the influence (DUI).  However, when you reach the end of the article it states:

A spokesman for the state patrol urged caution about drawing correlations between DUI arrest and collision rates and broader public behavior.

"The biggest reason for arrest data to change is police staffing," said the patrol's Bob Calkins.

Did the increase in liquor prices affect consumption?
We know that the price of alcohol has an impact on how much is consumed.  Along with privatization, liquor prices in our state increased. It may be that the increase in price balanced with the increase in availability and prevented an increase in consumption. 

Do other new policies decrease the amount of time police spend on the roads?
A decrease in DUI arrests could mean that police officers don’t have the time to arrest more drunk/high drivers because of the time it takes for them to process each case.  From the time a person is pulled over for a possible DUI violation, it takes about four hours to process the DUI.  

Why does it take so long?  Watch this video to find out: 

  • Recent legislation requires officers to impound vehicles, increasing the officer’s time on the DUI case because he/she has to wait for a tow truck.
  • With marijuana related cases and breath test refusals, officers are encouraged to obtain blood tests.  This means that officers need to take DUI suspects to hospitals for blood draws.
  • A recent court decision mandates that officers obtain warrants for each blood draw.  Contacting a judge, especially at night, adds a lot of time to the process.

Extra time spent processing a DUI means less time out on the road finding DUIs.

Will final numbers tell a different story?
DUI data for 2012 are still preliminary. For example, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which tracks fatality collisions, is still receiving crash reports for 2012 and their data won’t be finalized until January 1, 2014.  Other data sources are the same – reporting and data analysis lag behind DUI incidents. 

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