Drunken-driving arrest rates drop sharply in ArkLaTex states

Number of drunken driving arrests declines

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — The drunken-driving arrest rate has dropped a staggering 59.6 percent over the past 12 years in Louisiana.

That's the 10th biggest drop in the country.

Following just behind with the 11th biggest drop in the drunken-driving arrest rate is Arkansas.

It has seen a 59.1 percent drop since 2007.

Sitting at 28th place is Texas, with a 40.6 percent drop over the same time period.

That’s all according to a new study released by the consumer website safehome.org, which utilized U.S. government figures in the report.

Those sources include the FBI’s annual Crime in the U.S. reports, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the nonprofit Traffic Injury Research Foundation USA.

It all begs the question of what's causing such drops?

Many analysts have said there is no single cause, but rather a confluence of factors.

Those include the growing social stigma of a DWI arrest along with sky-high penalties, not to mention crime prevention programs.

Drunken-driving crash survivor Ronald “Bubba” Fletcher said those figures constitute just part of the explanation.

"The numbers don't show the true impact."

Fletcher speaks at high schools for ThinkFirst of the ArkLaTex, a nonprofit injury prevention agency.

He tells young drivers about the fatal choices he made 12 years ago, which included drinking at a friend's house before hopping in his truck and beginning to head home.

That’s when his vehicle rolled over then on top of him after trying to drive up a highway on ramp.

Fletcher also recalls for students how he didn’t wake up for weeks after the crash, and only then discovering he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

It’s a sobering story and message that he is grateful to be able to deliver to young drivers.

“To me it’s a mission. It’s my purpose.”

If you get a DWI in Caddo Parish, chances are you will meet Fletcher at an alcohol awareness class.

ThinkFirst is just one member of the local safety coalition of law enforcement and other agencies, all working together in recent years to lower drunken-driving arrests.

That includes Louisiana State Police.

Trooper Brent Hardy, spokesman for Troop G, said the safety coalition was formed a few years ago.

"We all come together to try to get the information out there about the dangers of impaired driving."

Some wonder whether Louisiana’s legal system is doing enough when we still see people charged with second-, third, fourth-offense DWIs and more out of jail.

For Fletcher, it’s a source of concern but says he knows the state is working on the issue.

"They're doing more. But I think there's more to be done."

Fletcher said he would like to see more jail time for offenders, sticking closer with their sentences.

And sometimes dole out fewer diversion programs for at least some repeat drunken drivers.

Fletcher also has a long-term goal he would like to see.

"Every time that I do that DWI class, that I want to come in and that class be empty."

Fletcher said he holds a DWI class once a month, and attendance averages 20 to 30 drivers.

He and others also credit ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft for helping more intoxicated people get home safely and without getting behind the wheel.

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