By Monica Ruechel
Attendance in DUI classes across the state has been dropping significantly over the past couple of years. Our school used to average between 15-20 people per class and now we’re lucky if we reach double digits at all. At first, we worried that it was an issue with us, but after talking to other DUI school owners, we realized that this is a common phenomenon across the state. Fewer people enrolled in DUI classes must mean that fewer people are getting DUIs because fewer people are driving under the influence.
We all speculated as to what the cause could be for this phenomenon, and the most common speculation was that the availability of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are eliminating the number of people getting behind the wheel while under the influence. Apparently, this speculation is shared by many, including Channel 2 Action News’s investigative reporter Richard Belcher. Belcher reported his speculations and his findings in an article titled “DUIs in Georgia drop nearly 50%...one reason why might surprise you.”
As I just mentioned, Belcher attributed the drop in the number of DUI convictions to the ease of finding a designated driver at the tap of a finger on a smart phone screen. Instead of having to hail or call a taxi, all you have to do now is open your preferred ride-sharing app, tap a few different things, and a driver will pick you up within minute.
Belcher sat down with Mike Hawkins, a local DUI defense lawyer, to prove his theory. While Hawkins acknowledged the role of Uber and Lyft in the decrease in DUI arrests, he said that ride-sharing services are NOT the deciding factor; rather, the deciding factor is that the city of Atlanta is focusing its attention elsewhere. Atlanta used to have a unit dedicated to enforcing traffic laws, but this unit was essentially disbanded and its responsibilities transferred to all field officers. After this change, the number of DUI arrests in Atlanta dropped 26%. With fewer officers dedicated to solely looking for people driving under the influence, fewer people are getting arrested for driving under the influence.
Atlanta Police Department’s Deputy Chief Jeff Glazier confirmed this in his conversation with Belcher. He said that the department is allocating resources differently to focus on more pressing issues, ranging from the recent collapse of I-85 to the recent increase in violent crime. Harris Blackwood, spokesperson for the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said that this is occurring statewide. Police departments all over Georgia are allocating their resources differently, indirectly taking the focus off DUIs. Furthermore, there are fewer police officers in the state than there have been in the past, meaning there are fewer available resources to allocate. If we had a plethora of police officers, having units dedicated to catching people driving under the influence would be no problem.
So there you have it. We’re wrong in believing that Uber and Lyft are reducing the number of people that are driving under the influence and we know this because there are more DUI related traffic accidents now than there have been in previous years. The number of people driving under the influence is not decreasing—it’s the number of DUI arrests that is decreasing. While it feels great to know that business isn’t slow because of anything we’re doing wrong, we would rather have fewer students because people are choosing to take Uber or have a designated driver instead of driving under the influence than have fewer students because fewer people are getting caught diving under the influence. Take advantage of services like Uber and Lyft so that you can protect yourself and others from DUI-related incidences. Let Uber and Lyft be the culprit in reducing the number of DUIs—order yourself a ride and let’s keep those numbers dropping!
Click the following link for Richard Belcher’s full article: http://www.wsbtv.com/news/2-investigates/duis-in-georgia-drop-nearly-50-the-reason-why-might-surprise-you/518240778
Written by: Monica Ruechel