OKC police say officer shortages means increased disparity between DUI arrests and alcohol-related fatalities

Data indicates fewer an ever-decreasing number of intoxicated drivers are arrested in Oklahoma City and statewide despite increases in fatalities. Advocacy groups blame lax legislation, lack of personal responsibility.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Published: January 7, 2013
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• Mandatory license revocations for those convicted of drunken driving.

• Legislation that allows for sobriety checkpoints.

• Stricter punishment for those caught driving with a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit.

• Programs that provide alternatives to traditional jail confinement.

• A 10-year “look-back period” when examining whether a person is a repeat offender.

• Specialized courts for people charged with driving while intoxicated.

Among the most significant deterrence measures Oklahoma lacks, according to the administration, are:

• Vehicle sanctions for offenders.

• Laws that require zero alcohol in a convicted driver's system for a certain period after being convicted.

• Elimination of programs that allow convicted drivers to wipe their court records clean.

Mother's Against Drunk Driving, a national advocacy group, ranks the state 34th in terms of preventing fatal accidents due to drinking and driving.

Responsibility

Loretta Denman, programs director for the group's Oklahoma wing, said lawmakers are culpable for the trend.

Legislation passed in 2011 requires ignition interlocks for all repeat offenders and first-time convicted drunken drivers with a blood alcohol content level of 0.15 or higher, but Denman said her organization pushed for it to include all convicted drunken drivers, 0.08 and above.

She said stiffer penalties, even for first-time offenders, will keep drunken drivers off the roads and highways.

“Some people don't believe that 0.08 is high enough to cause a crash when in fact it is,” she said. “Just because we take their license away doesn't mean it's going to stop.”

Noble McIntyre, a personal injury attorney in Oklahoma City, said teaching personal responsibility is more important than legislation, education and enforcement funding in curbing drinking and driving.

He said he believes the increased fatalities and decreased citations for driving intoxicated is because people intent on breaking the law now seek alternative routes home to avoid the police.

Forty percent of drinking and driving accidents in 2011 happened on dark, unlit roads, McIntyre said.

“They're taking two-lane roads instead of the highways,” he said.

“You can make all the laws in the world you want, but it starts with personal responsibility and until people fully understand the consequences of their actions they don't really care what the law is.”


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