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Louisiana drunk driving arrests down, fatalities up

It is no secret that law enforcement agencies have been cracking down on drunk driving nationwide in hopes of reducing the number of alcohol-related fatalities on the roadways. The state of Louisiana is spending about $9 million in federal grant money each year on this type of enforcement. Oddly enough, however, the number of impaired driving arrests in Louisiana has decreased from 2010 to 2014 despite an increase in drunk driving fatalities during that time frame.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 34 percent of the 737 accident fatalities in Louisiana were alcohol-related. This is an increase from the 31 percent of the 721 fatalities in 2010.

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission finds that this slight increase is a result of more drivers on the road due to lower gas prices and job growth. The LHSC found that arrests of drunk drivers in the state dropped approximately 25 percent over the four year period.

Overall, drunk driving rates have remained fairly steady over the past 20 years in Louisiana, despite the increase in sobriety enforcement. Experts say that it takes time to change the cultural mindset that drunk driving isn't a big deal.

One idea to prevent drunk driving would be to focus on preventing excessive drinking. Studies have also shown a correlation between binge drinking and drunk driving, meaning that binge drinkers are more likely to drive drunk. States with stringent drinking policies, such as a high tax on alcohol and sales restrictions, have lower binge drinking rates.

Another idea is to continue the use of sobriety checkpoints. Louisiana statistics indicate low arrest rates at various sobriety checkpoints in the state. However, some say that these low rates do not show the effectiveness of these checkpoints. By law, checkpoints must be publicized, which is a deterrent in itself. Some states have decided to outlaw sobriety checkpoints altogether. While some progress is being made, Louisiana has a ways to go to in the war against drunk driving.

Source: The Advocate, "Drunk driving arrests down in Louisiana, fatalities up - despite millions spent on enforcement," Lanie Lee Cook, Jan. 9, 2016

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