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Report: 1 in 7 Arizona drivers drove drunk in '07

 by Matt Culbertson
 published on Thursday, April 24, 2008



About 15 percent of Arizona drivers drove under the influence of alcohol at least once last year just less than the national average, according to a report released Wednesday.

The first-of-its-kind national report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that Arizona ranks 27th in terms of the annual percentage of intoxicated drivers.

The administration is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services.

The report found that the percentage of Arizona drivers 18 and older who drove while intoxicated was near the national average. In Arizona, 14.9 percent had driven after consuming alcohol, compared with the national average of 15.1 percent.

But the number of Arizona adult drivers who drove after using illegal drugs was less than the national average, with 3.7 percent of Arizona adult drivers using illegal drugs at least once last year before getting behind the wheel. The national average for adults driving after using illegal drugs at least once last year was 4.7 percent, according to the report.

The study combined data collected from 127,283 drivers surveyed in 2004, 2005 and 2006 and is the most recent data of its kind available, according to the report.
Phoenix Police Detective Reuben Gonzales said Arizona's tough DUI laws contributed to fewer people drinking and driving.

"Arizona has some of the strictest laws in the nation," Gonzales said. "You're going to find more and more people thinking twice about going out there and driving [drunk]."

According to the report, Wisconsin had the highest percentage of adults driving under the influence of alcohol, with 26.4 percent of adults driving intoxicated at least once. Utah had the lowest rates, with 9.5 percent of adult drivers using alcohol at least once before driving.

The highest number of illegal drug use before driving was in Washington, D.C., with 7 percent of adult drivers using illicit drugs before driving, according to the report.

New Jersey reportedly had the lowest rate of illegal drug use before driving among adult drivers, with a rate of 3.2 percent.

Tempe Police spokesman Brandon Banks said in an e-mail that, while the report is important for police to note, the Tempe Police Department maintains consistent enforcement policies.

"Our police department is deeply committed to enforcing all traffic laws, especially DUI laws," Banks said.

ASU Police Cmdr. Jim Hardina said in an e-mail that the report's findings were expected.

It is unlikely that ASU Police will make policy adjustments because of the report, he said.

"We could but probably won't," Hardina said.

Finance senior Thomas Collinsworth also said he was not surprised by the report's findings regarding Arizona drivers.

"I kind of expected it," he said. "It's not that high."

Collinsworth said he thinks DUI laws in Arizona are too stringent, and added that he would like to see more emphasis on anti-drunk driving education rather than enforcement.

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