TPD: It's not worth drinking and driving
TORRINGTON – Ahead of New Year’s celebrations, Torrington Police Department (TPD) says it’s not worth drinking and driving this holiday weekend.
Wyoming ranks No. 4 in the nation for highest crash fatalities rate per 100,000 for New Year’s Eve drinking and driving incidents according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and DistractedDriverAccidents.com, a nonprofit which monitors, tracks and collects data for drunk driving, specifically holiday-related incidents.
“If you plan to drink this holiday weekend, plan ahead and have a driver or a safe way to get home,” Torrington Police Department Chief Matt Johnson said.
According to Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) and the Wyoming Governor’s Council of Impaired Driving (GCID), the state had a net -12 drunk driving incidents in November and a net -1 drunk driving incidents in December but a positive 8 drunk driving incidents for 2020. According to GCID, 2021 data will be available mid-January, but 2022 data won’t be available until late December 2023.
Some statistics GCID provided the Telegram include:
On average, Wyoming reports roughly 760 fatal or near-fatal drunk driving incidents annually.
On average, 27 people, or roughly 8,855, U.S. residents die annually from drunk-driver crashes.
One-third of drivers arrested for drunk driving are repeat offenders.
More than 1 million drivers are arrested in the U.S. every year due to impaired driving.
50 to 75% of convicted drunk drivers continue driving on suspended licenses.
Wyoming averaged 1,100 alcohol-involved crashes over the past 10 years annually.
More than 50 Wyomingites die every year from alcohol-involved crashes.
The average blood-alcohol content (BAC) of people arrested for a DUI (driving under the influence) in Wyoming is almost double the legal limit of 0.08.
Almost 90% of those who died in alcohol-involved crashes in Wyoming didn’t wear their seatbelt.
“Ultimately, celebrating in a responsible manner for any holiday event relies on each individual's choice,” Johnson told the Telegram. “We need people, residents and visitors to make good choices this holiday season.”
Chief Johnson said his department will be out in full force this New Year’s weekend and wants everyone to return home safely.
“So many stories from our community and family members begin with enjoying a fun night – celebrating, laughing and having a joyous holiday, but those turn tragic very quickly because of drunk driving,” Johnson further explained. “It is easy for anyone to get complacent and think it can’t happen to them, or they didn’t drink enough to be drunk – but that’s where we can get into trouble, so people just need to make wiser, smarter decisions to not get behind the wheel after drinking.”
“The easy answer – is if you’ve been drinking, don’t plan out how many drinks you can ‘safely’ have and still drive – that’s just nonsense and it can not only put yourself in danger, but it can put our community members in danger.”
According to a national nonprofit closely working with local law enforcement agencies, including TPD, Goshen County Sheriff's Office (GCSO) and Wyoming Highway Patrol (WHP), in collecting drunk driving data, Responsibility.org, Wyoming reported 36 fatal alcohol-impaired driving incidents in 2019; which is a rate of 24.5% of incidents turning fatal in the state. According to the nonprofit, 2019 saw a net increase of 4 cases over 2018 and early data suggest drunk driving incidents in Wyoming increased in 2020 and again in 2021 by nearly 2% each year. The nonprofit said its fact sheets with 2020 and 2021 data would be made available during the spring when national organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) host their annual drunk driving walks and fundraisers.
According to GCID:
The rate per 100,000 population in Wyoming for fatal alcohol-impaired driving incidents is 6.3% statewide and for Goshen County that percent is just about 4%.
The rate per 100,000 population in Wyoming for fatal alcohol-impaired driving incidents for residents under the legal drinking age, 21, is 2.6%; in Goshen County that rate is just under 1%.
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon issued this statement: “Too many lives continue to be lost in this country and in our state as a result of individuals who choose to get behind the wheel of their vehicles while impaired by alcohol or drugs.”
Adding, “The risk to the safety of every citizen and visitor to Wyoming is real. Identifying and implementing strategies that will effectively reduce the number of impaired drivers in our state requires a dedicated and focused effort.”
GCID reminds residents to drink responsibly and dispel some impaired driving myths.
Myth: Gum can cover up the smell of alcohol.
Fact: “If you’ve been at a bar or a party, you might be tempted to pop a piece of gum or a mint to help cover the smell of alcohol on your breath. And while you might cover the smell, you won’t trick a breathalyzer. No gun, mint or food will prevent the device from detecting the presence of alcohol molecules in your breath sample.”
Myth: Take a cold shower to sober up.
Fact: “A cold shower won’t water down your BAC. The body metabolizes and rids itself of alcohol on a fixed schedule based on your age, weight and gender. So, taking a shower might tidy you up, but there is no scientific evidence that it helps rid your body of alcohol to sober you up.
Myth: Suck on a penny to reduce your BAC.
Fact: “Sucking on a penny won’t change your BAC. We’ve all heard this one – the idea that copper and zinc (materials in a penny) cause a chemical reaction in your mouth that interferes with a breathalyzer reading. Nope. Breathalyzers measure the concentration of alcohol in a person’s breath. Besides, pennies taste terrible and who knows where they’ve been.”
According to data provided by the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) and University of Wyoming (UW) partnership in the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center (WYSAC) concerning drunk driving related incidents from 2011-2015 and presented in a 2016 Wyoming State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup for all 23 counties, Goshen County recorded a record number of youth DUI arrests.
The joint analysis group is working toward updating its 2016 report, but a spokesman for WYSAC said the organizations report the data is the same or slightly increased for 2020, 2021 and preliminarily for 2022.
Of the 32 total youth DUI arrests made from 2011-2015, 30 of those were in Goshen County. Of the 927 DUI arrests of drinking aged adults, 533 were reported in Goshen County.
According to the WYSAC report, of the 158 alcohol-related fatal, injury and property crashes reported from 2011-2015, 80 of those were reported in Goshen County.
According to WDH’s Alcohol and Crime in Wyoming - 2021 report, the average reported BAC for 314 persons who were arrested for DUI after being involved in a traffic crash was .1749. The age group with the highest percentage of DUI arrests were Wyomingites aged 31-35, representing 15% of DUI arrests. The second highest reported age groups each representing 14% of DUI arrests included residents aged 21-25 and residents aged 26-30.
The report also detailed how DUI’s and public intoxication make up roughly 45% of Wyoming’s total custodial arrests over the course of the last decade.
“34.25% of persons arrested for DUI in 2021 had been arrested for DUI previously,” WDH’s report stated.
According to WDH, alcohol-involved arrests are trending down across the state. The department reported 6,660 drunk driving related arrests were made in 2017; 5,011 arrests made in 2018; 5,707 arrests made in 2019; 4,175 arrests made in 2020; and 4,060 arrests were made in 2021. The agency noted not all DUI’s involved alcohol consumption and not all alcohol related arrestees were also charged with a DUI.
According to WDH and data from the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation, roughly 16.61% of DUI arrestees had a BAC of 0.08-0.119; roughly 26.94% of DUI arrestees had a BAC of 0.120-0.159; 22.66% of DUI arrestees had a BAC of 0.160-0.199; 13.63% of DUI arrestees had a BAC of 0.200-0.239; and 14.35% of arrestees had a BAC of 0.24 and above. The data for Goshen County is similar to statewide data with indistinguishable differences, however, the county average BAC is significantly higher than surrounding counties of 0.1867; the state average is 0.1639.
The statewide DUI arrests as a percentage average is 32.36% of alcohol-related arrests involving a DUI; in Goshen County it is roughly 30%.
“We live in a wonderful and amazing community – please let’s take care of each other and go the extra mile heading into 2023,” Johnson said. “Let’s end 2022 strong and start 2023 strong with better decision making to keep our communities safe and secure.”
Johnson explained the entire department is scheduled to work through the weekend and will be keeping an eye on DUI enforcement. However, due to safety concerns, Johnson did not state when, where or which officers would be patrolling when or where.
“Just don’t do it – it’s not worth the headache or mess and it’s really not worth potentially messing up your life or ending another’s life by driving drunk,” Johnson explained. “It’s simply not worth it, we want everyone to stay safe.”
“Let’s make the responsible choice to not drink and drive, to keep our roads safe and for you to make it home in one piece to your family,” Johnson added. “Happy New Year Torrington and be safe this weekend.”
Goshen County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) and Wyoming Department of Highway Patrol (WHP) both stated they will have DUI task forces out in full force this New Year’s weekend. The Telegram would like to remind everyone to drink responsibly and to have a Happy New Year.