A study by a private safety advocacy group has found that Idaho has the 19th most driving under the influence arrests in the country, relative to its population.
For every 100,000 people in Idaho, about 318 were arrested for driving under the influence in 2017. That number puts Idaho just above the majority of states, but far below North and South Dakota, the only two states that have seen an increase in DUI arrests in recent years.
The numbers are part of a downward trend in DUIs nationwide. According to SafeHome.org, the organization that ran the study with data from the FBI and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DUI arrests have declined 61.5 percent since 2007.
While deaths from DUI accidents are also falling, the changes are more modest than those for total DUI accidents. The SafeHome study found only a 3 percent decline in DUI deaths from 2008 to 2017.
That number is an average from a wide pool of results from across the country. Idaho was a leading state in the decline of fatalities. According to the study, deaths in Idaho have declined 29 percent, the third-largest decline in the country.
Other states and regions saw increases in the number of accidents that resulted in death.
The District of Colombia is the most likely region for a fatal accident to involve a drunk driver, at 51 percent. In Idaho, that number was only 24 percent. Utah was at the bottom of the pack, with only 20 percent.
Urban cities have more drunk driving accidents than rural areas. According to the study, however, that reflects the higher population in cities. Rural towns have more DUIs relative to their total population and have seen a slower decline in DUI related deaths.
“Smaller cities tend to have higher DUI arrest rates than larger ones, though it’s likely this is owing in large part to fewer people driving overall in very large cities with the prevalence of walking and use of public transit,” the study states.
Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Sgt. Bryan Lovell said drunk driving incidents have remained relatively steady in recent years, estimating the sheriff’s office makes between three and five arrests a week on average. He said there tend to be more accidents around the holidays.
“We have a tendency to have more irresponsible drinking incidents during this time,” Lovell said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates 300 people will die nationally between Christmas and New Year’s Eve from a crash caused by driving under the influence.
The Idaho Legislature has attempted to cut back on drunk driving with a law requiring drivers with a single DUI to install a device that prevents their car from starting unless they blow into a mouthpiece to measure their blood alcohol content. Previously the device was only required after two DUI convictions.
An Idaho Press article on the change of law noted that drivers are rarely caught the first time they drive under the influence.
“People drive under the influence an average of 80 times before being arrested for their first offense,” Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho, told the Idaho Press in January.
Despite the change in laws and overall decline of DUI incidents, the authors of the study warn that drunk driving remains one of the most common causes of fatal accidents.
“The fact remains that drunk driving claims about three times more lives on America’s roads than distracted driving,” the report states. “That’s not a license to live-tweet your commute, but there can be no doubt that driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol remains an incredibly dangerous and potentially deadly activity.”