DUI crashes uptick during holiday season

Roanoke City Police are increasing patrols to help fight the problem


ROANOKE, Va. – A newly released study from SCRAM Systems finds 40 percent of vehicle crash deaths will be because of drunk drivers this holiday season, compared to 28 percent the rest of the year. 

Drinking and driving tends to increase between Thanksgiving and New Year's. It’s a trend we see here at home as more people are taking time off for the holidays, spending time with friends and loved ones, and attending holiday parties.

Roanoke City Police say their message is simple: don’t drink and drive.

That’s why traffic safety officer Fatima Foster says Roanoke City Police are stepping up patrols. They’re continuing to increase their focus on the areas where drunk drivers are most likely to be, especially Downtown Roanoke, parts of Williamson Road, and Orange Ave.

Foster says it’s all in an effort to keep drunk drivers off the road and reduce the risk of being involved in a crash.

“There are the ones that suffer,” says Foster. “The ones that are not under the influence. The ones that are just going home from work, going to work, or out to get a midnight snack or something. Those are the ones that are affected.”

Here’s a breakdown of what police in Roanoke City have seen over the past few years. From Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Eve, police made 35 drunk driving arrests in 2014. In 2015, police made 23 DUI arrests. Last year, 27 arrests were made during that holiday period. 

Saturated patrols may be playing an impact in that uptick in arrests last year, as officers work to find drunk drivers and get them off the road right away. 

Foster says information from previous years plays a major role in where officers patrol each night. They go where the numbers tell them, where other drivers have been arrested for driving under the influence in years past. It’s those data drive patrols that are helping officers cut down on drinking and driving. 

“By the time we get to you, and we make the enforcement, it’s too late,” says Foster. “ At that point, we do have to act, we do have to make the arrest, we do have to potentially tow your car. Our main focus is to prevent getting to that point.”

That’s why officers continue to remind people to plan ahead. They say designating a sober driver or making plans early to call a cab or an Uber can help cut down on the temptation or pressure to drive yourself home.

As you’re out at family gatherings or holiday parties over the next month, expect to see more officers out on patrol. It’s a visible reminder of their promise to keep people safe this holiday season. 

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