FARMINGTON – As the holidays approach – a time of historically higher rates of driving under the influence – a new report places Colorado and New Mexico among the worst 15 states for drunken driving.
While fatalities related to drunken driving have decreased by nearly 50% since the early 1980s, 29% of motor vehicle deaths are still a result of alcohol impairment, according to BackgroundChecks.org, an outlet that compiles public records. Based on the organization’s findings, Colorado and New Mexico rank in the top 15 of the states with the worst DUI rates. The study defined alcohol impairment when a driver involved in the crash had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater.
The rankings were organized by calculating a DUI severity score, through DUI arrests per 100,000 population and DUI-related fatalities per 100,000 population, according to study organizers. The organization relied on the 2018 FBI arrest statistics for DUI arrests and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics for DUI fatalities.
New Mexico ranked as the sixth-worst state for drunken driving incidents, with 108 fatalities in 2018. The state saw an overall decrease in fatalities by 4% from the previous year. Colorado, while ranked 13th in the country for drunken driving incidents and 188 fatalities, saw an increase of 6.8% from its 2017 fatalities.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, the holidays are a particularly high time for drunken driving incidents as people travel farther and the number of parties increases. DUI arrests are highest between Thanksgiving and the end of New Year’s weekend.
The study’s findings come as both communities increase efforts to fight drunken driving.
In early November, La Plata County’s victim-impact panel put out a request for volunteers to share stories about how their life was affected by drunken driving. La Plata County also has the additional challenge of addressing people who drive under the influence of marijuana. As was previously reported by The Durango Herald, between Jan. 1, 2018, and June 20, 2019, there were 17 incidents of driving under the influence of drugs, nine of which involved marijuana, according to data provided by the Durango Police Department.
Last week, the New Mexico State Police announced officers would be cracking down on drunken drivers throughout December. Officials announced increased sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols. For the first 10 months of this year, state police reported 350 traffic fatalities, 92 of which involved alcohol. Although the overall number of deaths is higher than those reported for the past two years, the alcohol-related driving deaths are lower at this point in the year.
The report also comes a few weeks after a Farmington man, suspected to be driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, caused a head-on crash near Cortez.