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Utah Traffic Deaths Rise As Arrests Fall

SALT LAKE CITY – According to recent statistics, the number of traffic deaths in Utah caused as a result of impaired driving have gone up but the number of DUI arrests in the same period have dropped.

The state report was recently published which stated that the number of fatalities caused by drunken driving increased from 20 to 23, whereas the number of drug-related deaths in the same time period increased from 37 to 45 in the years 2012 to 2013.

The report was the 12th annual DUI report to the Utah Legislature and is compiled by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

According to the report, there were a total of 10,901 arrests statewide that took place last year. This is a decrease of 11 percent from the previous year. The highest number of DUI arrests were recorded in 2009. The figure has dropped 36 percent since then.

This drop in the number of DUI arrests has been attributed to Utah’s increasing population and limited law enforcement resources by Mary Lou Emerson, director of the Utah Substance Abuse Advisory Council. She said that going after drunken drivers will be a priority of the Utah Highway Patrol in 2015.

The increase in the number of drug-related traffic deaths, from both illegal and prescription drugs, is of particular concern now, as these drug-related fatalities outnumber alcohol-related fatalities by almost 2 to 1.

In a meeting with the Transportation Interim Committee on Wednesday, Emerson stated that a lot of people believe that prescription and over-the-counter drugs are legal in most cases as they are prescribed by a doctor, but that is not the case.

The case of a Davis County school bus driver who was arrested this week on suspicion of DUI is a good example. The driver was seen weaving on I-15. According to the UHP, the driver had taken prescription drugs for pain, anxiety or high blood pressure that could have caused dizziness or drowsiness.

Emerson said that she feels that people don’t take those warnings very seriously. They think that since the medicine was prescribed to them by their health provider, they are safe to use and that it’s OK to drive after taking them, but that’s not really the case.

The report also stated a number of facts including the following:

  • The average blood-alcohol content of impaired drivers arrested was recorded at 0.14%, the highest being 0.44%, which is more than 5 times the legal BAC limit of 0.08%
  • First time DUI arrests were 70% whereas 19% of the arrests made were for second offenses. 7% arrests were for a third offense and 4% of the arrests were for a fourth or subsequent offense.
  • Around 12% of the arrests made were of individuals under the legal drinking age of 21 years. The youngest arrest made for a DUI offense was of a driver aged 14 years, whereas the oldest offenders arrested were 82 and 84 years of age.
  • 72% of the DUI drivers arrested were male whereas the remaining were female.
  • Almost 72% of the DUI arrests made statewide were made in Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties.

News Source: www.DeseretNews.com

                       www.SLTrib.com

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