Crime Mapping Helps Address Drunk Driving
Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the United States today. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 41,000 people died as a result of fatal car crashes in 2007.1 Nearly 37 percent, of these deaths were a direct result of a driver having a blood alcohol level of .01 or greater.2,3 With numbers this high, is important to understand the impact that drunk driving has on our society. Not only are people injured or killed, the economic impact of theses crashes is also high. Medical care, property damage, and insurance rates rise as a result of alcohol related crashes, and this does not take into account the extra time, costs, and personnel resources that law enforcement agencies must incur as a result of these crashes.
To assist stakeholders concerned with impaired driving, the COPS Office has partnered with the DWI Resource Center, Inc., a tax-exempt 501(c) 3 New Mexico organization that uses public awareness, education, prevention programs, and research to reduce the social and economic impact of driving while intoxicated (DWI).4 In addition, the Center provides assistance to victims of drunk driving by providing access to legal services, counseling, and social service organizations. The Center also recognizes the importance of developing partnerships among law enforcement, public officials, liquor law compliance agencies, and judicial officials so they can develop innovative strategies to reduce alcohol-related incidents in their communities.
While both national and state data are available on alcohol-related crashes, very little data exist. To address this issue, the COPS Office awarded funding the DWI Resource Center, Inc. through the 2007 Community Policing Development Program to develop a web-based application that can detect DWI hot spots within the community. This web- based application, called Operational Deployment and Reporting Application (ODRA), will use a crime-mapping application to enable users to view and analyze alcohol-related incidents within a specific geographic area. Such information as time of day, day of the week, severity of the crash, and proximity to alcohol establishments can be mapped. From this information, stakeholders can identify and rank the most dangerous roads and intersections within their jurisdictions that are prone to alcohol-related incidents and develop or enhance innovative strategies to reduce alcohol-related incidents in their communitiesy. Once these programs are developed, stakeholders will be able to analyze data to determine if there has been a reduction in alcohol related incidents as result of their efforts. The DWI Resource Center, Inc. will first develop ODRA using data from drunk driving incidents throughout the State of New Mexico. Once developed, the data can be used as a model for local law enforcement agencies who want to gather alcohol-related data.
Law enforcement agencies can benefit greatly from ODRA. By mapping specific locations where alcohol- related crashes occur, they will know precisely where to set up DUI check points within their jurisdictions. They can also determine how close alcohol related crashes are to establishments that sell alcohol, such as bars and clubs. The information on drunk driving can also be used to develop more rigorous penalties against those who drive under the influence of alcohol, or look at specific age groups that are more prone to drunk driving. Law enforcement can also use this information to inviolve the community involved in combating drunk driving through public awareness campaigns and training. By taking proactive steps to address drunk driving, the greater chance there is of reducing alcohol related crashes and deaths across the country.
- 2 www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/States/StatesAlcohol.aspxl
- 3The NHTSA defines blood alcohol level (BAC) as the percentage of weight of alcohol in the blood. A positive BAC level of .01 indicates that the alcohol was consumed by the person tested. A BAC of .10 or greater indicates that the person was intoxicated.