Arizona Drunk Driving Deaths

Arizona DUI Deaths Rose Last Year

Bob Golfen The Arizona Republic Sept. 14, 2006 07:35 PM

Despite intensified police efforts and public-awareness campaigns,
alcohol-related traffic deaths rose significantly last year in Arizona,
with DUI fatalities increasing 13 percent in 2005 compared with 2004, new
federal statistics show.

Drunken driving was blamed in more than one-third of all traffic
deaths statewide, with 49 more people killed in alcohol-related crashes
during 2005 than in 2004.

Arizona came in No. 6 among the states with the largest increases in
alcohol-related fatalities. The nationwide trend was a slight decrease in
the numbers killed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration. advertisement

“It’s disappointing that we’re not making progress,” said Mike
Hegarty, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
“It’s still disappointing that so many people are making the wrong
decision to get behind the wheel when they’ve had too much to drink, and
it’s costing themselves or someone else their lives.”

The total number of people killed in all Arizona highway crashes
during 2005 was 1,177, a slight increase over 2004, when 1,151 people
died. Of those killed in 2005, 492 died in crashes where alcohol was a
related factor, and 434 of those were killed in crashes where a driver
was legally drunk, with a blood-alcohol level higher than .08

Aggravated DUI, when the blood-alcohol level is higher than .15
percent, was implicated in 309 of the deaths.

The driver who killed Judy Meyers’ son, Paul, in April had a
blood-alcohol level of .21 percent, according to police, when he
broadsided Paul’s car at a Scottsdale intersection while running a red
light at high speed. Paul Meyers, 29, died of massive head trauma.

The 27-year-old drunken driver, William Ward, was sentenced to 12
years in prison.

The criminal proceedings were an added emotional drain after her son’s
death, Meyers said.

“I felt no hatred toward the person when I saw him in court,” she
said. “But two things kept going through my mind. I kept saying to
myself, how many families are going to have to go through what we are
going through?

“And I kept thinking, when will the madness stop? The madness being
driving drunk.”

Chuck Heeman, the Arizona executive director of Mothers Against Drunk
Driving, said DUI laws need to be toughened in the state to combat
drunken driving and lower the death toll.

“There’s really no fear for the drunk driver when they’re out on the
road,” Heeman said. “People don’t take drunk driving seriously. They
don’t understand the ramifications of it.”

Too often, drunken drivers get off with a light penalty, he said, and
judges’ hands are tied by unsubstantial state penalties mandated for
drunken driving. This frustrates police officers who work hard to catch
DUI offenders, he said.

Law enforcement agencies statewide have boosted DUI enforcement in
recent years, Hegarty said. DUI task forces frequently target areas with
saturation patrols, rotating from place to place, he said, with a special
emphasis on enforcement around holidays.

“We’re trying to be much more proactive, getting a lot more DUI task
forces out there,” he said.

During 2005, the special task forces made more than 6,500 DUI arrests,
he added, not including the arrests made by regular police patrols.

Underage drinking is blamed for some of the increase in deaths, said
Yvette Lopez, spokeswoman for AAA Arizona.

“I volunteer with MADD as well, and we have seen quite an increase in
underage drinking,” Lopez said. The director of the Governor’s Office of
Highway Safety, Richard Fimbres, agreed that young DUI offenders have a
major impact on the death rate.

“We’re seeing way more young people who have been drinking and are
impaired with other substances,” Fimbres said. Although people killed in
drunken-driving accidents most often die at the hands of strangers, death
can also come from someone close to the victim.

For 20-year-old Lindsey Taft, it was a guy she has just started
dating, a motorcyclist who brought her to a party in August 2003, said
her mother, Robin Williams of Chandler. Police say both were drunk when
they started home.

The driver lost control of the bike while rounding a curve in
Ahwatukee, and they crashed at the entrance of a golf course. He
survived, she was killed. According to police, the driver’s blood alcohol
registered .165 percent, more than twice the legal limit.

“It’s just that it’s such a stupid thing, so preventable,” Williams
said of drunken-driving deaths. “You hear about it every day on the news,
but I don’t think it sinks in anymore.”


AZ Drunk Driving Deaths Up 13%

By Som Lisaius, KOLD News 13

Drunk driving is blamed in more than one-third of all the traffic
deaths statewide last year. It’s a startling statistic that’s landed
Arizona among the worst in the nation for fatal DUIs.

Despite increased patrols, DUI checkpoints and stiffer penalties,
Arizona’s alcohol-related traffic deaths jumped 13 percent last year.
That’s the sixth largest increase nationwide, with 492 people losing
their lives because somebody decided to drive drunk.

“The first thing that comes to mind when I hear those numbers is the
fact that there’s that many people out there suffering.”

Theresa Babich knows this all too well based on something that
happened four years ago. “29 hours after I got home from my honeymoon, my
husband was hit on his motorcycle on his way to work buy a drunk

Miraculously her husband survived but is permanently disabled. The
experience altered both of their lives significantly. As Babich became a
victim’s advocate for Mother’s Against Drunk Driving.

“People look at it as an accident–not as a crash,” Babich says of
alcohol-related collisions. “There’s no accident getting behind the wheel
when you’re impaired.”

Making matters worse, Babich says is an amendment to state law that
cuts what used to be an all-day defensive-driving class to four and a
half hours starting this Sunday. The class still costs about 130 bucks
and is said to convey all the same information. Babich isn’t so sure.

“Cutting down that time to only half a day, we’ve gone out and trained
those teachers of the defensive driving classes to talk about DUIs and
how they can affect folks–so what part of their course are they gonna

Sanctions aside, Babich says drunk driving is an individual’s choice.
Maybe you’ve gotten away with it and nobody you know has ever been hurt.
But the statistics aren’t in your favor. And it only takes one time to
change everything forever.

Wondering why you should care about these statistics? again more than
one third of all traffic fatalities in Arizona last year were alcohol
related. But of those people who died, nearly have of them were innocent
victims who weren’t even drunk.


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