Proof from Reno: DUI Enforcement Saves Lives
Nine lives lost in two weeks – and then two lives in three weeks. Still two lives too many, but the second three weeks marks a real improvement. It appears Reno’s DUI enforcement is working. After three weeks of increased patrols, road deaths are down markedly.
Even better, the infamous Labor Day Weekend wasn’t so infamous. There were no reported road deaths due to drunk drivers. The holiday is known for a high road death count, and warnings are issued all over the country to prepare drivers for this treacherous weekend.
The effort started after a particularly deadly two-week period in August in which 9 people died in 6 collisions, several in which drunk driving was involved. In an emergency measure, Reno Police Chief Jason Soto started a crackdown on drunk driving, authorizing overtime and dedicating resources to stopping drivers who showed signs of intoxication.
The resulting downturn in road deaths is a good indication that DUI enforcement saves lives, for two reasons:
- Drunk drivers are taken off the roads before they can hurt anyone.
- Deterrence: other drivers see the stops and arrests, and are much more careful themselves. Anyone who knows that a DUI taskforce is on the job will think twice before ordering that extra beer when dining out.
According to news reports, the crackdown will last for a few months, and it’s possible that funds will be found to add an officer to the force’s DUI unit.
Another solution, proposed by Reno councilwoman Neoma Jardon, is a more thorough ignition interlock law. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
Right now, the devices are not mandatory for all offenders: only drunk drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .18 or higher are required to install ignition interlocks. Yet 28 states now mandate the devices for all DUI offenses of .08 or higher.
It’s usually a long road to a comprehensive ignition interlock law. DUI crackdowns work faster, and often produce dramatic results, as they have in Reno. But crackdowns can’t last forever. It’s time to take some of the enforcement burden off the task force and place it on technology that was designed to save lives by taking drunk drivers from behind the wheel.