Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sobering Stats

What I'm reading: Contest entry #3 of 7
What I'm writing: Chapter 4, scene 2

The Civilian Police Academy alumni had been invited to 'tag along' at the last to DUI checkpoints. In addition to having completed the basic academy and passed background checks, we bring desserts. The Sheriff's Office is moving toward saturation patrols rather than checkpoints, but the goal is the same: get impaired drivers off the road. And they're requesting our help in getting donations to feed the officers who are on duty, as well as showing up to help serve. In return, if we want, we can ride along with an officer for a few hours, the caveat being that our names will be on the reports as witnesses, so we might be on the receiving end of a subpoena somewhere down the road.

Last night's class was a sobering (pun intended) look at DUI statistics.

In Orange County, Florida

In 2006 there were 1322 crashes attributed to drunk or impaired drivers. 952 of these resulted in injuries. 64 resulted in death.

In 2007, there were 186 fatalities. It's now June, 2008 and there have already been 60 deaths.

The arrest rate for drunk drivers is estimated to be one arrest for every 100 impaired drivers out there. Any recent drop in arrest rate in our county is due to the decreasing manpower, not the decreasing number of drunk drivers.

Between the hours of 6 PM on any given Friday and 6 AM the following Monday, 1 out of 8 drivers is drunk of impaired.

One out of three people will be impacted in some way by a drunk or impaired driver. One out of THREE. Too often, these people are the innocent bystanders, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In 2005, 14,000 people died in DUI related accidents. In 2007, the number was greater than 16,000.

The number of deaths is growing, and it's equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing once a week for a year. You can't tell me that if that was happening, there wouldn't be massive overhauls to the system.

And those figures are for deaths. There are countless injuries that don't result in death.

In the Orange County Sheriff's Office, there have been FOUR deputies who lost their lives due to drunk drivers. (This doesn't count those who have been unable to return to work after an accident). On the other hand, there have been ZERO deputy deaths due to crime-related shootings.

The idea behind the DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols is not so much to arrest drunk drivers (although that is definitely a goal), but to educate the public that it's a safety issue. You may not be drunk, or even had a single drink. But what about the other folks on the road?

Their motto: "If you drink, that's your business; if you drink and drive, that is OUR business."

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