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DUI Arrests Are Down, But Drunk Drivers Are Still On Las Vegas Roads

You drink, you drive, you lose. At least that’s what we’ve been told for years through public service campaigns from law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations.

Everyone can agree that driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is inherently dangerous, yet thousands of people still do it. Figuring out how high that number is, however, is the hard part.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police department made almost  40 percent fewer arrests last year for DUI than just two years ago. In 2014, that figure sits at 4,500. Compare that with 2012, when more than 7,700 arrests were made.

But does that mean there are actually fewer drunk drivers on the road? In a city that prides itself on easy, 24/7 access to alcohol, it doesn’t seem likely. Especially when you look at other law enforcement agencies, such as the Nevada Highway Patrol, whose DUI arrest numbers have continued to go up.

NHP’s numbers have jumped from more than 1,800 in 2012, to more than 2,200 last year.  

NHP spokesperson Trooper Kevin Honea told KNPR’s State of Nevada that finding drunk drivers is the main focus of troopers who work the overnight shift.

However, despite popular beliefs, it is not tourists who are driving drunk.

“It is too easy to blame it on the tourists. It is our problem,” Honea said. “We need to look in the mirror.”

Lt. Todd Raybuck with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said that while there is no breakdown of tourists DUI arrests compared to locals a large majority of arrests are southern Nevada citizens.

“This is a community issue,” Raybuck said, “What we really need to address is personal responsibility. Before you get in the car, don’t drink and drive.”

He said that many people drink before they leave their neighborhood and head down to the Strip for a night of dinner and entertainment. He said officers often catch people driving drunk between the Strip and valley neighborhoods.

Sheriff Joe Lombardo told the Sun that budget constraints and fewer officers on the streets has led to a decrease in traffic stops, which is also the reason the department stopped responding to most non-injury crashes.

Sandy Heverly, executive director of Stop DUI, agrees that a lack of officers is hurting efforts to stop drunk drivers.

“If you have more officers on the street, you’re going to have less crime,” Heverly said. “We believe we need more officers on the street.”

However, she believes things like dram shop laws, which require bartenders and servers to keep an eye on how much alcohol someone is being served, tightening of sentencing guidelines and enhancing rules for hit-and-run crashes will also have an impact of the number of people driving drunk.

GUESTS

Ric Anderson, managing editor, Las Vegas Sun

Sandy Heverly, Co-founder, Stop DUI

Lt. Todd Raybuck, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

Lt. Kevin Honea, Nevada Highway Patrol
Copyright 2015 KNPR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.knpr.org/.

Ric Anderson, managing editor, Las Vegas Sun

Sandy Heverly, Co-founder, Stop DUI

Lt. Todd Raybuck, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

Lt. Kevin Honea, Nevada Highway Patrol

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.