Photo by Bob Leal.
KINGMAN – The next time a law enforcement officer asks you to blow into a breathalyzer, just remember Arizona blows away all other states when it comes to being tough on drunk or otherwise impaired driving.
A recent report by personal-finance website Wallethub.com places Arizona at No. 1 with an 84.09 rating. The state at No. 2 is Georgia, with a 70.45. Alaska (65.00), Oklahoma (62.27) and Nebraska (61.82) round out the top five.
“We beat most states by 30 or 40 percent. We take it seriously,” said Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
“It’s a great honor for Arizona. It’s not like we’re trying to be nasty, but we have to protect the citizens,” said Gutier. “We enforce the law heavily.” Gutier came up with the saying, “Drive hammered, get nailed,” in 1998.
“We emphasize we want to be safe on the highways,” said Gutier.
Arizona has 350 trained drug recognition experts, said Gutier, and 1,000 officers have been trained to draw blood.” That alleviates the need for technicians.
In order to draw blood legally, law enforcement needs a search warrant. Gutier says now it only takes 10 minutes to get one.
South Dakota is the most lenient on drunk drivers with no mandatory jail time or license suspension.
“Arizona ranked as the strictest state on DUIs due to its tough criminal penalties (first) and its well-enforced prevention policies (second). In terms of criminal penalties, the state mandates longer than average jail sentences of 10 and 90 days for the first and second convictions, respectively, and driving under the influence is considered a felony after the third offense,” said Wallethub analyst Jill Gonzalez.
“Arizona also has one of the most restrictive minimum fines, $750 for the first conviction and $1,750 for the second,” said Gonzalez.
“As far as preventative mechanisms are concerned, an ignition interlock is mandatory after the first conviction with a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration (many states still do not enforce this until the second offense, with a BAC of 0.15) and is mandatory for 12 months. It’s also important to note that an Arizonan’s driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days and the vehicle will be impounded after the first conviction,” Gonzalez said.
In the interest of underscoring the financial downsides of driving drunk, Wallethub analyzed U.S. states in 15 key metrics, ranging from fines and minimum jail sentences to interlock device requirements and license suspensions.
The following is a look at Arizona’s rankings:
Minimum jail time, first offense, first; minimum jail time, second offense, third; how long old DUIs factor into penalties; 19th; administrative license suspensions, ninth; minimum fine, first offense, third; minimum fine, second offense, third; and average insurance rate increase after a DUI, 17th.
The Wallethub study found 37 states require alcohol-abuse assessment and/or treatment after a conviction for DUI. Interestingly, despite its No. 1 ranking, Arizona is not one of those states.