The numbers are in for drunk driving arrests in Arizona for this year’s fourth of July weekend. Since July 4 is typically one of the worst times of the year for driving under the influence, the weekend tally is often used as a kind of barometer for the issue nationwide. And if Arizona is any indication, the results are encouraging.

DUI Stops Up . . . DUI Arrests Unchanged

The police in Phoenix and across the state apparently tried to drum up more business the year – a lot more! During the 2015 July 4 holiday, there were 12,105 traffic stops statewide. The total this year, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, was 16,696. That’s an increase of about 38%. With such an extraordinary effort, you’d think maybe the cops were on to something, and that they’d bag more drivers suspected of being impaired by drugs or alcohol. Well, you’d be wrong. In fact, the number of arrests was almost exactly the same this year as last.

Impaired Driving May Be Way Down

So what does all this mean. Well, for one thing, the numbers can be interpreted as showing that the incidence of drunk and drugged driving is going down. That’s not simply the result of comparing this year’s numbers to last. Two years ago, the arrest number for the Independence Day weekend was 552. And while the number of DUI arrests in 2016 was almost exactly the same as in 2015, it actually represents a rather large drop in suspected driving under the influence. Confused? Let us tell you exactly how we reach that conclusion.

Many of the traffic stops on holiday weekends are not necessarily the result of individual officers pulling someone over because of weaving, having no lights on at night, or other markers that raise the flag of a possible DUI. A large number of the stops are at checkpoints, where hundreds of cars pass through over a period of just a few hours. In order to stay within the guidelines established by the courts, the vehicles stopped at a checkpoint are not driver- or diving-specific, that is, they are not made based upon the type of vehicle, age of driver, etc. Typically, the stops will be of every fourth, or tenth, or twelfth car, or based on some other neutral standard. So although there will be exceptions here and there, you would generally expect the percentage of DUI arrests to reflect at least roughly the percentage of drunk/drugged drivers on the road.

Based on the published number here’s what we see. In 2015, the DUI arrest percentage over the July 4 weekend was about 4%. This year’s number was less than 3%. That may not seem like a lot. But it suggests that the incidence of DUI on Arizona’s roads may well have declined by more than 25% over the last year!

Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(480) 280-8028


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