Arizona is the harshest state in the U.S. when it comes to DUI offenders, according to a survey by economic website Wallethub.com.
DUI crashes were to blame for 29 percent of motor vehicle fatalities in 2015, according to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and in Arizona in that year, caused 295 deaths, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s “Crash facts” annual report.
Drunk-driving fatalities, nationwide, dropped by 57 percent from 1982 to 2014, according to the NHTSA, and in Arizona, reached a high of 397 in 2007, since ADOT began issuing the reports in 1997.
Tough laws are one of the factors behind this drop, said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration.
“With the combination of strong laws, education, and enforcement, the perception of alcohol-impaired driving shifted. It used to be seen as something that you probably shouldn’t do, but it’s OK if it happens,” he said. “Strong advocacy and the message that alcohol-impaired driving is dangerous for everyone helped to change the cultural perception.”
WalletHub said it examined 15 key metrics to identify the strictest and most lenient states for DUI offenses, including:
• Minimum jail time for 1st conviction
• Minimum jail time for 2nd conviction
• When is a DUI automatically considered a felony?
• How long does a previous DUI factor into penalties for a new DUI?
• Are there additional penalties for high blood-alcohol content (BAC)?
• Minimum fine for 1st conviction
• Minimum fine for 2nd conviction
Arizona’s ranking among the states looks like this:
• 1st – Minimum jail time (1st offense)
• 3rd – Minimum jail time (2nd offense)
• 21st – How long old an DUI factors into penalties
• 9th – Administrative license suspension
• 3rd – Minimum fine (1st offense)
• 3rd – Minimum fine (2nd offense)
• 14th – Average insurance rate increase after a DUI
Using existing penalties
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said the problem isn’t a lacking of DUI laws, but that it “should now be up to the courts to use the discretion that is afforded them by the legislature.”
In other words, she said, “I don’t think that more laws are the answer in this continuing societal struggle. We already have sufficient additional punishments available to the courts to use in their discretion.”
A DUI is a Class 1 misdemeanor and those convicted are subject to six months in jail.