As the COVID-19 pandemic and stay at home orders continue to affect our everyday lives, coupled with stressors of unemployment and new daily structures, people are looking for new coping mechanisms.
Even though many restaurants and bars throughout the DC area remain closed, police have arrested hundreds of people for driving drunk in the past several months. While DUI arrests are lower in comparison to the same period in 2019, since there is less traffic on the road, coupled with bars and restaurants being closed, it is possible that individuals will drink in their houses and get behind the wheel. This is creating a worrisome trend of more drivers under the influence.
Unfortunately, this issue of DUI arrests is not limited to the DC area. States like Florida, Nevada, and Pennsylvania have also seen similar spikes in the number of people arrested for drunk driving. Holistically, many states are seeing a decrease in the deaths and injuries attributed to driving under the influence, most likely due to overall road traffic decreases. However, the states dealing with increased DUI arrests are worried that the reckless habits during the pandemic will continue and cause other drivers to make unsafe decisions on roadways across the country.
Why the Increase in DUI Arrests?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, estimates that one-third of fatal crashes involve a drunk driver. Even though much of the country is at a standstill because of the novel coronavirus, law officials attempt to decrease this statistic by committing to finding and arresting anyone who drives under the influence.
As the data from 2020 is analyzed, many are noting its application after the pandemic. Studies show that even though there is less traffic because of the pandemic, the number of DUI arrests is increasing, similar to the trends in DC. Experts believe that this may be due to a few factors.
One of the important factors could be that jurisdictions have told law enforcement to not respond to minor crimes in an effort to limit contact between officers and civilians. This could account for the various inconsistencies or differences in the arrest data. Authorities have also noted that, due to the empty roadways, officers are more likely to catch drivers who show signs of driving under the influence than they could previously.
Another factor that could influence the number of DUI arrests during the pandemic could be a result of people’s leisure time. With limited activities available to individuals, along with statistics showing an increase in alcohol sales, it is theorized that some intoxicated drivers are taking to the roads for joy rides as a welcomed escape from home environments.
“The choice of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated could affect your life and rights,” says Criminal Defense Attorney Kush Arora of Price Benowitz LLP. “Getting arrested for a DUI could result in fines, probation, jail time, and or suspension of drivers license.”
Tips to Drive Safely
Even though there are drastic changes to everyone’s lifestyle due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still basic guidelines that every person should follow before they get behind the wheel of a vehicle to ensure safe driving for everyone on the road.
One of the most important components to remember about driving is that a person should prevent or mitigate distractions before they start to drive. This may mean lowering music volume in order to hear sirens, or quieting rowdy passengers. It is also extremely important to not ingest any substances that could impair or influence the reaction time of the driver. This includes but is not limited to, marijuana, alcohol, and any medications that could cause drowsiness or lack of focus.
While these guidelines may seem obvious or common sense, as roads become more crowded with individuals returning to their jobs and offices as regulations and stay-at-home orders lift, it will be beneficial to everyone on the road to refresh traffic laws applicable to their state and safety driving basics.
As life starts to begin to return to normal, everyone should remember to drive with caution and respect others who share the roadway. Many are dealing with drastically different lives than they had before the pandemic, so driving without distractions, not under the influence, and at the proper speeds and distance, will ensure safety for all commuters.