Officials: DWIs trending down

January 7, 2014 • Local News

Steve Stone Graphic

Data from law enforcement agencies show a general downward trend in driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrests in Chaves County over the past five years.

Total combined DWI arrests in Chaves County for law enforcement agencies Roswell Police Department, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police amounted to 227 in 2013. The total was 352 in 2009.

Law enforcement leaders and the Chaves County DWI Program attributed the trend to greater education about the risks of driving while drunk or under the influence of other drugs.

“People are more aware now,” said Diane Taylor, prevention specialist for the DWI program.

The DWI program exists in varying capacities in every county. Chaves County Program [auth] Coordinator Charlotte Andrade noted that the county’s DWI program is one of few in the state that funds all eight component areas in the program.

The areas include but are not limited to prevention, treatment for drug problems and screening of those charged with DWIs to see what social services they may be eligible to receive.

Chaves County Sheriff Rob Coon said social pressure also plays a role in lowering DWI arrests.

“It’s just taboo now to basically be a smoker; same thing with drunk driving,” he said.

Department of Transportation data for the state of New Mexico display a downward trend as well. DOT reported 19,932 DWI arrests in 2007, compared to 14,463 in 2011. DOT did not have state or county data for 2012 or 2013 available.

The county trend is not consistent for all years. Combined data from the three law enforcement agencies show an increase of 20 arrests in 2010, followed by a decrease of 70 arrests in 2011. Arrests jumped slightly from 307 in 2011 to 316 in 2012, but then fell by 89 arrests in 2013, according to the totaled numbers.

RPD spokeswoman Sabrina Morales said she did not see a clear trend in RPD’s data.

“It’s kind of like a ping-pong ball, back and forth,” she said. “Some years just look better than others.”

DOT data reveals a decline in DWI arrests in Chaves County through 2011. DOT’s tally for 2009 was 344 arrests, slightly below the combined total DWI arrests reported by RPD, state police and the sheriff’s office.

Data provided by DOT for 2010 and 2011 was above the total reported by the three agencies, which may be explained by the fact that DOT data is based on information submitted by all law enforcement agencies in a given county.

DOT data also shows that alcohol-involved traffic fatalities in New Mexico have fallen each year since at least 2006.

Preliminary numbers show that fatalities dropped by about 17 percent from 2012 to 2013, with 367 deaths reported in 2012 and 306 the year after.

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