Liberalized liquor laws could test drunk driving enforcement

If approved, the amendment would raise the accessibility of cold alcohol

Refrigerated hard beer and wine will be available in Oklahoma should voters approve State Question 792 on November 8 and that raises the issue of how the state deals with drunk driving.

The constitutional amendment to liberalize liquor laws is being promoted by groceries and convenience stores, including QuikTrip and Reasor’s, plus the Tulsa Chamber. It is opposed by many liquor stores and by those who think raising the availability of alcohol will add to Oklahoma’s social ills.

Oklahoma has the fourth strictest laws on drunk driving, according to a report on DUIs by Alina Comoreanu for WalletHub.com.

Drunk driving resulting in more than 1 million arrests, nearly 10,000 deaths and over $40 billion in economic damage each year, according to WalletHub’s in-depth report on 2016’s Strictest & Most Lenient States on DUI.

“Driving under the influence” (DUI) or “driving while intoxicated” (DWI), alcohol-impaired driving was the cause of 31 percent of motor vehicle fatalities nationwide in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition to the loss of human life, the government estimates that drunk driving costs Americans more than $40 billion per year in economic losses.

Arizona has the harshest DUI penalties, including long jail terms.

South Dakota is the most lenient on drunk drivers with no mandatory jail time or license suspension.

Here is how Oklahoma ranked in several categories: (1-strictest, 25-average):

1st – Minimum Jail Time (1st offense)

2nd – Administrative License Suspension

5th – Minimum Jail Time (2nd offense)

6th – How Long Old DUI Factors into Penalties

18th – Minimum Fine (1st offense)

19th – Minimum Fine (2nd offense)

21st – Average Insurance Rate Increase After DUI

Oklahoma enacted the Erin Swezey Act in 2011, to require ignition interlocks for all repeat offenders and first-time convicted drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content of .15 or greater. Mothers Against Drunk Driving want state lawmakers to require ignition interlocks for all repeat DUI offenders and for first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.

Almost half the states now require all convicted DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicles they will be driving. These devices analyze the driver’s breath and won’t permit the car to start if alcohol is detected. The federal government estimates that these devices have reduced re-arrest rates of DUI offenders by 67 percent.

According to MADD’s website, drunk driving accounted for 23 percent of total traffic deaths in Oklahoma last year. The number of alcohol-related crashes was 3,824 and the number of alcohol-related crash injuries was 2,507.

In Oklahoma, the minimum jail time for a first DUI conviction is 10 days and five days for a second conviction. After the second offense, DUI is automatically a felony in Oklahoma penalties could stretch out for up to 10 years.

Administrative License Suspension lasts 180 days in Oklahoma.

All but seven states automatically suspend the license of someone arrested for DUI before any court action. Statistics show that 14 percent of those arrested for DUI don’t have their license suspended. Fifty-eight percent are suspended for up to 90 day and 6 percent are suspended for 91-120 days with 22 percent suspended more than 120 days.

Jail times in different states range from one day for a first offense to 21 days for repeat offenders. In 37 states (not including Oklahoma), alcohol abuse assessment and/or treatment is mandatory after a conviction for DUI.

DUI convictions will stay on your criminal record for at least six years in 80 percent of states and for life in five states.

Since states first began to crack down on drunk driving in the 1980s, the rate of impaired driving and the number of accidents caused by drunk drivers has dropped considerably. This has saved many lives, as drunk-driving fatalities declined by 57 percent from 1982 to 2014, thus removing motor vehicle crashes from the top 10 causes of death in the United States starting in 2009, according to the NHTSA.

The average fine for a first DUI ($347) is higher than the Uber fare from Washington, D.C., to New York City ($342). The average fine for a second DUI is $757.

All but seven states automatically suspend the license of someone arrested for DUI before any court action. Statistics show that 14 percent of those arrested for DUI don’t have their license suspended. Fifty-eight percent are suspended for up to 90 day and 6 percent are suspended for 91-120 days with 22 percent suspended more than 120 days.

Jail times in different states range from one day for a first offense to 21 days for repeat offenders. In 37 states (not including Oklahoma), alcohol abuse assessment and/or treatment is mandatory after a conviction for DUI.

DUI convictions will stay on your criminal record for at least six years in 80 percent of state and for life in five states.

WalletHub analyzed the enforcement rules in each of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia across 15 factors, ranging from fines and minimum jail sentences to ignition- interlock – device requirements that drastically reduce repeat arrests of previously convicted drunk drivers.