Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The number of deaths related to impaired driving in Utah rose last year, while the number of arrests for driving under the influence declined for the second year in a row.
The 10th annual DUI Report to the Utah Legislature showed that from 2010 to 2011, DUI/alcohol-related fatalities in Utah increased from 25 to 39, and DUI/drug-related fatalities increased from 26 to 30.
The percentage of total crash fatalities that were DUI/alcohol-related increased from 9.9 percent to 16 percent from 2010 to 2011. During the same period, the percentage of total crash fatalities that were DUI/drug-related increased from 10.3 percent to 12.3 percent.
The report, prepared by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, was presented at the state Capitol on Wednesday to various legislative interim committees.
Utah Highway Patrol Col. Daniel Fuhr said part of the reason for the increase in driving deaths could be attributed to a shift in the focus from DUI enforcement to speeding and seat belt usage.
“The lack of DUI enforcement has an impact on fatalities,” Fuhr said.
Because it’s an alarming trend, he said the agency will re-focus on DUI in 2013.
The report also showed that there were 13,031 DUI arrests in fiscal year 2012, 785 fewer than in the previous year — a decrease of almost 6 percent, and a decrease of nearly 15 percent from fiscal year 2010. Half of all arrests in 2012 were made by municipal law enforcement agencies, 14 percent by county sheriffs offices, with the Utah Highway Patrol responsible for 35 percent of DUI arrests statewide.
“In 2013, our plan is to put DUI enforcement on a higher priority,” Fuhr said.
Doing so would mean getting more manpower on the roads during the peak impaired driving times between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., he added.
“The more people we can get on the roads in those time frames looking for DUI drivers, fewer people will die,” Fuhr said.
The 2012 Legislature increased funding to the Utah Highway Safety Office for its DUI Overtime Enforcement Project from $400,000 to $600,000. The additional $200,000 is ongoing, the report stated.
Those dollars will be greatly needed to effectively implement the enhanced DUI enforcement, Fuhr said.
The report indicated that the majority of DUI arrests occurred along the Wasatch Front with Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties accounting for 72 percent of the state total.
Of those arrested, 68 percent were for a first DUI offense, 21 percent were for a second offense, 7 percent were for a third offense, and nearly 4 percent were for a fourth or subsequent offense.
In fiscal year 2012, 72 percent of arrestees were male and 27 percent were female. From the 2003 to 2012 fiscal years, the proportion of women arrested for DUI has increased nearly 9 percent.
Also of note, 8 percent of arrestees were under the legal drinking age of 21. The youngest DUI drivers in fiscal 2012 were 14 years old, and the oldest were in their mid- to late-80s.
The 8 percent of arrestees under the legal drinking age of 21 represented a decrease of nearly 20 percent since fiscal 2011, and a 28 percent decrease since fiscal 2010.
Art Brown, president of the Utah chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said while the numbers of DUI arrests has deceased recently, the number of impaired drivers on Utah roads is still far too high.
“There are plenty of people to arrest," He said. "There is no shortage of that at all. The increase in (law enforcement) overtime shifts will help address this problem.”
Brown said too often impaired drivers cause untold heartache to Utah families by seriously injuring or killing other innocent motorists. In addition to the 39 deaths, there were 1,500 injuries, he said.
“The deaths, first and foremost, belong to the drunks … the people who are driving impaired everyday,” Brown said. “Not UHP, not the cities, not the counties. That number (39 deaths) belongs to the drunks who were willing to take the risk and have little respect for the community in which they live.”