A report released by the California DMV shows a starling fact, after five years of continual decline, the number of DUI accidents resulting in fatalities increased in 2011. The report shows a 5% increase in the number of deaths that occurred in 2011 due to accidents caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Perhaps not surprisingly, the number of alcohol related crash fatalities rose by only a small amount – 1.6%. Deaths due to drug related DUI accidents were responsible for the majority of the increase. In the past decade, the number of drug related fatalities has increased by almost 40%.
The interesting thing about this report is that efforts to enforce DUI laws were not relaxed in 2011. Police still made over 180,000 DUI arrests in the state of California. The complete DMV report shows that the arrest rate per 100 licensed drivers was the same in 2011 as it was in 2010.
It seems that drugs are a big factor in many fatal accidents. Looking at the patterns of previous years' statistics, it appears that the percentage of alcohol related fatalities has been getting lower and the number of drug or combination drug and alcohol fatalities has been increasing.
This report may suggest that people are getting smarter about drinking and driving while more and more people are still uninformed of the dangers of driving and consuming drugs. Drug intoxication can be harder to detect because many pills do not produce the odor or visual systems that alcohol does. There are also no preliminary sobriety tests that can measure drug intoxication like a breathalyzer test can for alcohol.
In order to combat this trend, instead of focusing police efforts on catching drivers in the act, police you increase drug related DUI awareness and work on enforcing drug abuse.