The Heat was On: Statistics of Colorado DUI Incidents in 2016-2017

Despite tougher laws being passed to deter people from driving while impaired or under the influence, over 10,000 Colorado drivers were arrested in 2017 during 14 periods of designated enforcement designed to catch and arrest drunk drivers. This staggering number comes just six months following a major law change in August that now requires jail time for all felony DUI convictions in the state of Colorado.

Colorado law enforcement agencies increase patrols and put additional officers on the street during national holidays and public events as part of The Heat is On, a high-profile enforcement campaign sponsored by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). In 2017, fourteen “enforcements” saw an increase in DUI-preventative activity across the state of Colorado—including sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols, and additional on-duty law enforcement personnel—up from twelve in 2016.

About One-Third of Driving Fatalities Involved Impaired Drivers

The Heat is On “provides grants to law enforcement agencies to conduct overtime DUI enforcement using state and federal funding,” combined with a strong public awareness campaign against driving while intoxicated. According to Col. Matthew Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol, about one-third (226) of Colorado’s 629 driving fatalities in 2017 involved impaired drivers.

2017 saw 10,359 drivers arrested during the fourteen Heat is On enforcement periods for suspected intoxicated driving, a steep 42% increase from the 7,279 arrested in 2016. The number of arrested drivers is not the only increase between 2016 and 2017. 226 impairment-related fatalities on Colorado roads occurred during 2017, up from 191 in 2016—an 18% increase in just under a year.

During the most recent enforcement period (New Year’s Eve 2017), 357 drivers were arrested between 12/29/17-1/2/18—a nearly 30% increase from the 279 drivers arrested during the same 5-day span in 2016.

Festivals and “Drinking Holidays” Yield More Arrests

Longer enforcements in 2017 naturally saw a higher number of arrests, with records indicating that the 39-day long Spring Event Enforcement had the most arrests of the year with 1,958 DUI-related arrests, up from 1,555 arrests in 2016 (a 26% increase). Enforcements of a substantial length of time (the Spring, Summer, and Fall festivals) and those that fell around “drinking holidays” (St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve, etc.) tended to have the most arrests in both 2016 and 2017.

The amount of time each enforcement period persists varies substantially, ranging from 3-39 days dependent on events/holidays and the time of year. In 2017, the enforcement periods averaged approximately 13.5 days each, with an average of 740 arrests made during each enforcement period.

CDOT’s website provides additional information by both period and year, including enforcement plans from local precincts and a breakdown of arrests made during each enforcement. In addition, CDOT offers a list of resources for those affected by impaired drivers, as well as more information on Colorado’s past and present DUI enforcement programs.