Twenty-two people were arrested New Year’s Eve weekend for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, according to preliminary reports from state and local law enforcement agencies and the Office of Highway Safety, down from thirty-nine last New Year’s Eve weekend.
In addition to the 22 DUI arrests, officers issued one citation for an underage drinking violation, apprehended nine wanted individuals, made seven drug arrests, made eight felony arrests and issued eight seat belt citations, two child restraint citations, three cell phone citations and 244 citations for various other traffic violations.
New Year’s Eve also signaled the end of the 2012 Checkpoint Strikeforce and Safe Family Holiday campaigns. With the 22 DUI arrests from New Year’s Eve weekend, that brings the total number of people arrested for DUI as part of the two campaigns to 402. The year also ended with an overall 4,922 DUI arrests statewide, up from 2011 which ended with 4,230 DUI arrests statewide. However, this is a significant decrease from 2006-09, when Delaware was experiencing total year-ending DUI arrests of more than 6,000 per year.
Alcohol-related fatalities made up 46 percent of the total motor vehicle crash fatalities for 2012, a decrease from 47 percent in 2011, but up from 2010 when only 40 percent were alcohol related.
During the Safe Family Holiday campaign, OHS tracked alcohol-related deaths and injuries that occurred between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Partners that displayed the DUI Victim Trees placed colored bulbs on the trees to represent each victim of an impaired driving crash. Five people were killed in alcohol-related crashes during the 2012 holiday season, and 57 others were injured compared to the 2011 holiday season when two people were killed in alcohol-related crashes and 27 others were injured.
Delaware Highway Safety officials are reporting that preliminary end-of-year total traffic fatalities have increased by 12 percent from 2011. While these are preliminary figures, there were 110 fatal motor vehicle crashes resulting in 116 fatalities in 2012. In comparison, 103 people were killed in traffic collisions the year before. Within the past 12 years, the highest number of traffic fatalities that occurred in Delaware was in 2003, with 148 total traffic fatalities followed by 2006 with 147. The lowest years were 2010 and 2011, with 103 traffic fatalities for each year.
“The increase in highway fatalities over the last year is very concerning. Our priority is continuing to educate our citizens about the many dangers they face on our highways in an effort to reduce fatal crashes. However, given the 37 percent increase in pedestrian crashes, we will place an added focus on pedestrian safety. It is important that drivers and pedestrians do their part in reducing these fatal crashes. Together we can make a difference,” said Lewis D. Schiliro, secretary of Safety and Homeland Security.
The major increase in the traffic fatalities were in pedestrian and bicycle crashes. There were a total of 30 pedestrian fatalities in 2012 compared to 19 in 2011 and 4 bicyclists killed in 2012 compared to 0 in 2011.
“The Office of Highway Safety remains committed to implementing sound initiatives designed to encourage safer driving on Delaware roads,” said Jana Simpler, director of the Office of Highway Safety. “We will continue to work with our safety partners to develop campaigns to protect all motorists on our roads, and especially our most vulnerable users, pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Seat belt use has remained consistent across Delaware. Delaware’s seat belt use rate remains at 90 percent for 2012. The national seat belt use rate is 86 percent. Seat belt use rate is determined by highway safety officials, who conduct a series of observational seat belt surveys at various locations of motorists traveling on roads throughout the state, and record whether drivers and passengers are wearing seat belts. Motorists on all types of roadways from interstates to two-lane roads are observed.
Motorcycle crashes still remain a concern but dipped slightly in 2012 with 16 fatal crashes that resulted in 17 lives lost compared to 2011 with 17 fatal crashes and 18 lives lost. One positive note is that helmet use seems to be increasing with riders. Sixty five percent of the riders killed in 2012 were wearing helmets compared to 44 percent in 2011.
“We are grateful to see the increase in helmet use within the motorcycle community,” said Alison Kirk, community relations officer for OHS. “Motorcycle riders are also vulnerable users on our roadways, and it is encouraging to know that they are being proactive with their safety and wearing helmets.”
Delaware has seen additional improvements with total aggressive driving-related fatal crashes decreasing on the roadways in 2012. Of the 110 total fatal vehicle crashes in 2012, 32 percent were aggressive driving-related, compared to 39 percent of all fatal crashes in 2011. The top two predominant contributing aggressive driving behaviors that continue to cause crashes are speeding and failure to yield the right of way. Combined, they contributed to 24 of the 36 aggressive driving-related fatal crashes.
As 2013 continues, OHS will conduct Super Bowl Sunday enforcement activities followed by nighttime seat belt enforcement, motorcycle enforcement, and St. Patrick’s DUI enforcement in March.
For more information on these or any other campaign efforts, follow OHS on Twitter @DEHighwaySafe, visit www.ohs.delaware.gov, www.DUIRealTime.com/Safe-Holidays or Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArriveAliveDE.