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Several factors at work as Tucson DUIs decline

Several factors at work as Tucson DUIs decline

05:55 PM MST on Monday, December 12, 2005
By Becky Pallack / Arizona Daily Star

In Tucson and nationwide, fewer people are getting arrested for drunken driving.

With three weeks left in the year, arrests for drunken driving in Tucson could be down 15 percent to 20 percent compared with last year. Tucson Police Department officers have arrested 2,745 for DUI this year, compared with more than 3,500 arrests in each of the past two years.

Nationwide, five- and 10-year trends show DUI arrests are down about 4 percent, according to FBI data.

There are several reasons for the decrease locally, including publicity and staffing levels, said Sgt. Dave Leotaud, who leads the department's DUI squad.

"We would like to think the public is getting educated enough that they're not driving drunk," he said.

More education programs are in place, including some aimed at reducing youth alcohol abuse. Officers help with outreach by taking high-tech toys, like drunken driving simulators, to high schools.

Police hope the message is saving lives. About 25 percent of young drivers, 15 to 20, who die in motor vehicle crashes have alcohol in their systems, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Alcohol is involved in 40 percent of all fatal crashes, according to the agency.

Through a pair of "fatal vision" goggles designed to teach kids how alcohol impairs vision and judgment, everything looks bigger, closer and blurrier, said Tucson High School freshman Gabe DeAnda, 14, who participated in a DUI prevention program during his PE class on Friday.

While driving a golf cart through an obstacle course, wearing the goggles and listening to Officer Corie Nolan with a blaring boom box shouting out "woo hoo!" in the passenger seat, DeAnda hit six traffic cones in 20 feet.

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