Alcohol and Drug Countermeasures
During the period from 2005 through 2009 the percentage of impaired driving fatalities, as a percentage of the total were at 29 percent. Fatalities for 2005 were 654 but declined to 585 in 2009. Alcohol related fatalities fluctuated up in 2006 and then down through 2009. The State experienced a decrease from 181 in 2007 to 168 in 2009.
In 2009, the Arkansas Crime Information Center (ACIC) reported 11,786 driving while intoxicated (DWI)/ driving under the influence (DUI) arrests. The 2010 preliminary data from ACIC (as of July 26, 2011) showed 10,383 DWI/DUI arrests. The continuing trend in lower arrest numbers, over the past several years, is an issue that has been questioned and researched. Agencies have reported manpower shortages, lack of training, DWI courtroom defense tactics and higher paying off-duty opportunities as contributory factors for the decline in impaired driving enforcement.
The percentage of fatally injured drivers testing positive for drugs increased over the last five years, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Each year between 56% and 65% of drivers fatally injured in motor vehicle crashes were tested for the presence of drugs in their systems. In 2009, 33% of the 12,055 of drivers fatally injured in motor vehicle crashes with known test results tested positive* for at least one drug, compared to 28% in 2005. The drugs tested for included both illegal substances as well as over-the counter and prescription medications, (which may or may not have been misused). In 2009, marijuana was the most prevalent drug found in this population—approximately 28% of fatally injured drivers who tested positive were positive for marijuana.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2012 report for Arkansas, the availability and rate of drug abuse in Arkansas remains high coinciding with the smuggling of methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana, the drugs of choice, for local consumption and further distribution.
The largest quantities of drugs are seized on the highways via interdiction programs. Methamphetamine has become Arkansas’ primary drug of concern. The state’s rural landscape provides for an ideal setting for illicit manufacturing of methamphetamine.
Each year the request for drug recognition expert (DRE) training exceeds the available resources in personnel. However, the acceptance and importance of the DRE program is gaining momentum throughout the state, with increased interest in agencies having certified DRE officers in their ranks.
Arkansas has increased the number of prosecutor positions as a result of increased demands upon the criminal justice system to meet speedy trial requirements. Prosecutors must become acquainted with alcohol and other drug testing procedures along with relevant case law, new validation studies, new legislation and testing updates.
Countermeasures to address the alcohol and other drug driving problems in Arkansas include the following: Selective Traffic Enforcement Projects (STEPs); Prosecutor, Judicial and Law Enforcement Training Projects; a BAC Intoximeter Training Project; Youth Intervention and Training Projects; Underage Drinking; Alcohol Safety Education Programs; Blood Alcohol Training & Sobriety Checkpoint Mobile Training Project; Pilot DWI Courts, and a public information and enforcement campaign, ―Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over‖.