WASHINGTON – The number of drunken driving arrests by Maryland State Police during Super Bowl Sunday and the following Monday dropped 20 percent this year, although the number of traffic-related fatalities increased, according to Sgt. Thornnie Rouse, a State Police spokesman.
On Sunday and Monday, State Police made 64 DUI arrests, down from 80 arrests during the same time span last year, Rouse said. In 2003, 47 people were arrested for driving under the influence.
“We’ll take any decline — always — but anything more then zero is too much,” Rouse said. “People are stubborn.”
Three people were killed in traffic accidents, including an alcohol-related death in Calvert County Monday morning, Rouse said. Sunday morning, a pedestrian was killed in Frederick County, and the third death occurred in Charles County Monday morning.
During the same two-day span last year, there were two deaths, one of which was alcohol-related.
Although responsibilities vary according to local agreements, State Police have jurisdiction in every part of the state except Baltimore City, Rouse said.
The decline in DUI arrests might be due to several factors, Rouse said. From Sunday evening until early Monday morning, 50 additional officers patrolled along with the regular force.
“Extra personnel always helps,” Rouse said. “Those 64 were removed from the road and prevented from taking the number to a higher toll. You would like to have zero (arrests), quite frankly.”
Rouse said snow and other inclement weather in the western part of the state might have kept drivers off the road.
Super Bowl Sunday has become one of the most dangerous days of the year to be on the road, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. On the day of the game and the following morning in 2004, alcohol played a role in nearly two-thirds of traffic deaths — ranking the Super Bowl behind only New Year’s Day in alcohol-related fatalities. Of the 91 deaths that year, 58 were traced to alcohol. The NHTSA defines an alcohol-related incident as one involving a driver or pedestrian with a blood-alcohol content of .01 percent or above.
In Maryland, drunken-driving laws were changed in 2001, lowering the cutoff from a blood-alcohol content of .10 percent to .08 percent.
AAA Mid-Atlantic tracks the number of Marylanders on the road for many holidays, but not the Super Bowl, said spokeswoman Amanda Knittle. The Super Bowl, now more of a festival than a game, has become another celebration that encourages drivers to get behind the wheel after too many drinks.
“During a lot of holidays, numbers can tend to go up because people are celebrating with alcohol,” Knittle said.
Although it draws attention on holidays, drunken driving is a chronic problem, Rouse said. In 2004, the number of DUI arrests among all Maryland branches of law enforcement exceeded 25,000, Rouse said.
“People fail to realize the dangers,” Rouse said. “This is a yearlong issue that needs addressing all the time.”
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