At the North Shore: In four years, DUIs increase 63 percent |

At the North Shore: In four years, DUIs increase 63 percent

Aggressive law enforcement, coupled with brazen intoxicated drivers, has lifted Incline Village’s DUI arrest total for the third straight year.

Washoe County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested 273 drivers for driving under the influence in 2007, according to a report recently issued by the WCSO. That’s up from 230 arrests in 2006, 159 arrests in 2005 and 168 arrests in 2004. From 2004 to 2007, arrests showed a 63 percent increase.

“I would think part of it is aggressive enforcement. There are a lot of younger guys on the force who want to get out there and get the people who are impaired,” said Capt. Steven Kelley of the WCSO Incline substation.

Kelly said the increase in arrests is not tied to increased patrols, because the WCSO hasn’t changed its staffing schedule in years.

“I think another factor is that people are a little more blatant about drinking and driving,” Kelly said. “I feel that in the past, people were maybe a little more covert or sneaky about it, thinking they could get away with it. You don’t see that much anymore.”

The people who overwhelmingly are not getting away with drunken driving anymore are Incline’s locals. Of the 557 arrests recorded in the report’s four-year study, 266 of those arrested listed the Incline Village/Crystal Bay area as their main residence. That accounts for 48 percent of those arrested.

Throw in the residents of the rest of the North Shore, including Truckee, and the number jumps up to over 60 percent.

Tourists, mostly from Northern California and partly from elsewhere in the nation, accounted for just over 20 percent of the arrests. Residents from Reno, Carson City and South Lake Tahoe make up the difference.

“The fact that there are more locals than tourists really wasn’t surprising to us,” said Sgt. Bill Devine. “When we pull people over we see the IDs, we know where they are from. I could have guessed there was a greater number of locals arrested than tourists, maybe not the exact numbers, but it isn’t a secret.”

In addition to a rise in the total number of DUI arrests among locals and tourists, there is also an increase in citations issued over the report’s four-year span. In 2004, WCSO deputies issued 913 citations, 1159 in 2005, 1369 in 2006 and 1716 in 2007. That shows an overall 88 percent increase in citations issued.

Those arrests and citations may be making Incline a safer place to drive, as the report shows accidents at a four-year low in 2007. There were 79 accidents on Incline’s streets in 2007, down from 111 in 2004.

Accident numbers fluctuated in the intervening years though, with 86 in 2005 and 108 in 2006.

“We can’t say the DUI arrests and citations mean less accidents, there is just no way to prove that,” Devine said. “But, the numbers show there may be a correlation.”

Not only are DUIs being issued at a higher rate each year, but the blood alcohol content (BAC) of those arrested rose as well.

In 2004, the average BAC was .151, nearly twice the legal limit of .08. In 2005, that number rose to .163 and in 2006 it inched up again to .165. The average BAC for 2007 was not yet available for the report.

“That is the most telling number to me,” Kelly said. “I’m not seeing a lot of borderline arrests where people are just above .08. I’m seeing people with really high BACs that really bring that average up.”

Devine said someone with a BAC in the .16 range is unquestionably impaired.

“They are definitely impaired once they get to double the legal limit. There are arguments that .08 may not really be impaired, although I think it is. But once you get to .16, where is the argument? It’s concerning to see those numbers because you know if .16 is the average, there are a lot of people way above that number to balance out all the people who are below it. It means a lot of people are getting very impaired, then driving.”

What is Incline doing about lowering the number of arrests in 2008 and beyond?

Bill Horn, chairman of Citizens Advocating Responsible Driving, or CARD, a local nonprofit with the goal of reducing the number of DUIs, said it is still in the organizational phases.

“We’re really looking at focusing on education. If we educate kids before they start drinking, we hope they will make better choices when it comes to drinking and driving,” Horn said. “We’re also focusing on community education, to let people know the consequences of drunken driving.

CARD is working with Incline’s schools to set up educational programs for the students, Horn said.

Minors made up for a very small percentage of those arrested for DUI. Those under 20-years-old made up only about 10 percent of total DUIs from 2004-2006. In contrast, the two most arrested age groups were 21- to 29-year-olds, who accounted for about 26 percent of the arrests, and 30- to 39-year-olds, who made up about 22 percent of the arrests. Age results were not yet available for 2007.

Horn also said the group is working with locals bars to set up shuttle services, but he said CARD doesn’t have the resources to operate a shuttle system.

“We’d hope to see a shuttle service emerge, but we don’t want to use donations to have employees, because then you have to pay for people to manage them and we don’t have that kind of money to waste,” Horn said.

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