The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on DUI Rates


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The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on DUI Rates

The world suddenly came to a halt when the deadly COVID-19 virus has struck everywhere, claiming thousands of lives from all over the countries. COVID-19 has changed most of our lives instantly. People have been forced to stay at home and observe the most strict precautionary measures to avoid spreading the virus. Because of such a setup, most people have not been driving as frequently. 

Months after the government’s imposed lockdown, rules have started to loosen up, and many people are now going back to work and starting to resume their daily activities. 

However, one noticeable change outside our homes is the significant number of people on the road. Compared to the pre-pandemic time, there are fewer people seen on the streets. That should still not be a reason to be complacent because accidents like car crashes involving DUIs still happen. 

Fast Facts about DUI

Driving under the influence or DUI is a constant public safety threat. Driving while being under the influence of alcohol or drugs endangers everyone on the road. 

There were 8,476 people killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in Florida from 2003 to 2012. According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data in 2012, Florida has 2.1% of adults driving after drinking too much. 

About one in three traffic deaths in the United States involve a drunk driver. To address this societal dilemma, states such as Florida impose laws pertaining to DUI cases. 

Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher are considered alcohol-impaired by law. Drunk drivers got behind the wheel millions of times in 2010.

If you are convicted of a DUI charge, you will be penalized whether you’re a first-time or repeat offender. Fines, specific periods of time in jail, and suspension of license are just among the consequences you have to face if you get caught driving while under the influence. 

DUI Trends Before COVID-19

Alcohol is responsible for roughly one-third of all traffic fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) resources revealed that heightened stress could lead to more alcohol intake. 

Drunk drivers, who cause an average of 29 deaths every day, are involved in 28% of traffic-related deaths. Someone is injured every 2 minutes from a drunk driving crash.    

In 2013, 290,000 Americans were injured by drunk driving crashes. More than 10,000 deaths were recorded from drunk driving accidents. 

Over one million drivers received DUIs in 2016, but this number only represents 1% of the self-reported cases. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 12 million US residents were recorded to be driving under the influence in the year 2018. 

Florida is one of the fastest-growing states. Unfortunately, it has a much higher than average share of people most at risk for severe cases of the COVID-19. 

DUI Trends During COVID-19

DUI Trends During COVID-19

Alcohol sales during the pandemic have increased in some states compared to the previous years. However, traffic-related crimes have decreased significantly across the U.S since the start of lockdown measures.               

Quarantine restrictions resulted in considerably fewer vehicles on the streets during the first four months of 2020.   Some states have recorded a downtrend of DUI deaths, while there are some that have increased, like the ones in Colorado. 

In Florida, 5,125 arrests were made before COVID-19. There is a 50% decrease in arrests after COVID 19, which is now at 2,563. Since more people are staying at home to consume alcohol, Florida has now 33% less DUI crashes and 50% down on fatalities. These data were released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Typically, March is one of the worst months of the year for DUI accidents. During COVID-19, only 15 crashes were reported.  The same month in the year 2019, there were 19 crashes recorded related to DUI.  

The data presented above do not represent that of the entire Florida state because in some other counties, an increasing trend in DUI cases has been observed. According to Sheriff William Snyder of Martin County, there was an increase in driving under the influence or DUI arrests since the outbreak of the pandemic because people have less options to go out, they are drinking on their own, and they don’t call for designated drivers to drive for them.       

Common Reasons of DUI Arrests During COVID-19

There are possible reasons why some counties in Florida have observed a steady increase in DUI arrests despite the restrictions imposed by the government in hopes to contain the spreading of the COVID-19. 

The most common reason for DUI arrest during the pandemic is the ability of the people to drink heavily, which is brought on by the stress and uncertainties of the situation. Job losses, food insecurity, eviction and illnesses have driven some people to drink more heavily than they did. 

The second most common reason is drinking solo. Because of the restrictions on socializing, more people are drinking alone or with just one or two friends. They don’t designate a sober driver. Concerns about sharing a car with an Uber or taxi because of the virus has also led more people to drive themselves when they should not.

The third and final common reason for the increase in DUI arrests is that fewer cars are on the road. This enables the police to easily target the drivers who appear to be impaired. 

Despite the pandemic still threatening the world, Florida criminal courts are still up and running for those who break the law. Your charges for driving under the influence won’t simply be dropped because of COVID-19. Contact DUI Defense Attorney Thomas C. Grajek now to help you. 

Strategies to Reduce or Prevent Drunk Driving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published strategies to reduce or prevent drunk driving. These strategies are also recommended by The Guide to Community Preventive Services and have been demonstrated to be effective in reviews by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.    

  • Drunk driving laws make it illegal nationwide to drive with a BAC at or above 0.08%. For people under 21, “zero tolerance” laws make it illegal to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system. These laws, along with laws that maintain the minimum legal drinking age at 21, are in place in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and have had a clear effect on highway safety, saving tens of thousands of lives since their implementation. 
  • Sobriety checkpoints allow police to briefly stop vehicles at specific, highly visible locations to see if the driver is impaired. Breath tests may be given if police have a reason to suspect the driver is intoxicated.
  • Ignition interlocks installed in cars measure alcohol on the driver’s breath. Interlocks keep the car from starting if the driver has a BAC above a certain level, usually 0.02%. 
  • Mass media campaigns spread messages about the physical dangers and legal consequences of drunk driving. They persuade people not to drink and drive and encourage them to keep other drivers from doing so. Campaigns are most effective when supporting other impaired driving prevention strategies. 
  • Administrative license revocation or suspension laws allow police to take away the license of a driver who tests at or above the legal BAC limit or who refuses testing. States decide how long to suspend the license; a minimum of 90 days is effective.   

DUI Defense Attorney for a DUI Case

You can’t easily go away if you are convicted of a DUI offense, even during a pandemic. Besides tainting your personal records, fines to pay, and revoking your license, your insurance may also be canceled. 

To avoid all these from happening and to save you from further consequences, it is best that you seek legal help from a DUI Defense attorney for your case.

Though courthouses are closed due to lockdown, you can still demand discovery, finish required programs either online or through video conferencing and collect documents to support your defense if your case is pending review from the prosecution.

— Thomas C. Grajek

FAQs about DUI cases in the time of COVID 19

If your license was suspended before the lockdown, you should speak with an attorney to learn how to get your license reinstated. The Driver Licenses and Motor Vehicle Service Centers (DMVs) have closed doors in mid-March of 2020 but have now reopened their doors last June 2020. It is important to note that they are on an appointment basis due to the current health scare situation. Contact your attorney to know the steps that you should take to get back your license. 

Yes, your vehicle may be confiscated if you are found to be driving under the influence of alcohol. Aside from that, your license can also be suspended or revoked. If it is your second offense, you will be mandated to have an ignition interlock device. 

Florida ranked 46th overall for drunken driving rates in 2018, with 151 DUI-related arrests per 100,000 people. There is a 30% increase in the short-term rate change in DUI from 2014-2018, while a 47.3% decrease for long-term rate change from 2009-2018. 

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