DUIs Decrease Across Athens County

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From 2012 to 2013 the rate of drunk driving arrests in Athens decreased by nearly 19 percent. Drunk driving has always been a major concern for police as it is an offense committed by a broad spectrum of the population, including those who are otherwise generally law-abiding. Captain of the Athens City Police Department, Ralph Harvey Jr., said that the department has noticed a trend in recent years with more DUI arrests occurring between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m., Thursday through Saturday nights. As a result, more officers have been deployed during these time periods of increased offenders.

Captain Harvey went into more detail saying, "We're continuing our increased traffic enforcement efforts, not necessarily citations, but we're trying to make more contacts. The officers are asked to make traffic stops as they can, as they see violations and as they have time within their other duties. We're going to continue doing that. So I think that will continue to affect our statistics as far as crashes, OVIs, traffic violations. We've seen a decrease in some of those things."

On average, a person arrested for driving under the influence has driven drunk 80 times before their first arrest.

One Athens resident was asked why she chose to drink and drive the night of her arrest and said, " For one thing, I had work the next morning so I needed to have my car in order to get there, so I didn't want to take a cab." She went on to say, "Also, I had stopped drinking earlier in the night, and had eaten and drank a lot of water, so I thought that I was okay."

Like this young woman, the mistake that many drivers make is thinking that they are okay to drive. The moment they get behind the wheel, drunk drivers risk damaging their vehicles, causing property damage, and killing any passengers in their car or pedestrians on the street. Then there are the latent consequences, which could include jail time, license suspension, fines, a driver intervention program, community service, etc.

Treasa Lucas, an instructor for the Flores & Associates Driver Intervention Program located in Athens, believes that those people who have been arrested for drunk driving, and who have experienced these consequences, have in return contributed to the decrease in DUIs in Athens County.

Lucas said, "I think there's been a lot more education in the community. I think that people who do get DUIs go back and tell their friends and family about what they experienced when they had to go to court, and when they had to pay all that money, and when they had to attend the three-day program. I also think that the State Highway Patrol has done a good job in advertising that you shouldn't drink and drive."

Lucas went on to talk about what changes she has noticed being made by the city and county police departments that may also have contributed to the decrease in DUIs.

"I think they're stopping people more. People who are repeat offenders are being pulled over more often, so people who've already had an OVI are a lot more reluctant to try it again, because they know that there's a greater chance that they'll get pulled over," said Lucas.

With more officers patrolling the streets during heightened drunk driving times, and more education among the community, Athens has seen a substantial decrease in DUI arrests across the county. A decrease that we hope to see continue in the years to come.