How COVID is affecting DUIs in Colorado
My Big Day has been privileged to be working on a DUI campaign funded by a Colorado state grant, through Partners and their incredible efforts in the area of prevention education. The initiative is called No DUI Larimer.
At the end of May 2020 – immediately following weeks of stay-at-home orders – Colorado State Patrol reported that impairment-related deaths in spring 2020 were double those of spring 2019.
As of summer 2020, alcohol- and marijuana-related crashes were in fact up 32 percent from the same time in 2019. Impairment-related fatal crashes had doubled.
Colorado State Patrol and representatives of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) speculate that mental health struggles, a shaky economy, and relatively empty roads during the stay-at-home order contributed to increasing DUI rates.
In all, 203 people were killed by suspected drunk drivers in 2020, up from 176 in 2019.
Denver-based attorneys Hebets & McCallin reported that alcohol sales not tied to the hospitality business went up 24 percent in 2020, with sales of spirits with high alcohol content increasing even more, by 27 percent.
The pandemic has brought challenges for DUI enforcement. Many police departments statewide suspended the use of breathalyzer BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) tests due to safety concerns about COVID-19 spread in droplets from suspects’ lungs.
As of February 2021, agencies continue to rely on blood alcohol testing, with mixed results. Some suspects have argued in court that they have a right to breathalyzer testing rather than blood testing, to varying responses from judges. However, Colorado law calls for automatic license suspension for drivers who refuse a blood alcohol test; with breathalyzers no longer an option, many suspected impaired drivers have lost their licenses by refusal.
Despite ongoing restrictions on bar and restaurant capacities, the pandemic appears to have had little impact on reducing impaired driving rates – in some cases, just the opposite.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the financial, mental or emotional effects of the pandemic, and/or substance use, visit the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health online for a searchable directory of substance use experts, mental health professionals, and crisis support resources.
If you see swerving or other signs of impaired driving, call 911. Impaired driving is an emergency.
Make the Call.
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