At this pace, drivers in San Juan County are headed toward an all-time high, inglorious though it may be.
The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office made 16 DUI arrests in the month of January. If that rate were to hold, the number of DUI arrests would hit 180 over the course of the year. That’s nearly double the 93 of 2011, one of the highest totals in recent years.
The spike has not gone unnoticed at Sheriff’s department headquarters.
“That’s probably one of the bigger volume months we’ve had in recent years,” Sheriff Rob Nou said. “Perhaps the numbers in January might give people pause to think about some of those behaviors and about some of the consequences.”
Regrettably, the islands are not alone when it comes to DUIs. Nou said driving under the influence is the nation’s most frequently committed crime, and that it can prove costly too. A gross misdemeanor, driving under the influence carries maximum penalties of 365 days in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both. However, Nou added that recent studies reveal that a DUI arrest, and subsequent conviction, can cost as much as $25,000, or more, when all the other related costs, such as lost wages, towing costs, attorney fees, insurances increases, are added in.
“It can be a significant hit,” he said.
Those arrested ran the spectrum, demographically; men and women, and in age as well, from 65 to 17. And only a small percentage of January’s DUI total came as a result of a collision, with no serious injuries reported.
The bulk of the arrests followed in the wake of what might be called routine traffic stops, such as for speeding, failing to obey a stop sign, or for driving with a broken taillight.
Nou said that getting an impaired driver off the road because of a moving violation is preferable than having to deal with an alcohol-related crash in which people are seriously injured. He added that alcohol is involved in 33-50 percent of all fatal crashes.
“It’s a serious issue,” he said.