COVID-19 pandemic leads to record decrease in Missouri DUI crashes and deaths
The pandemic has offered a few unexpected benefits for drivers, from shorter commutes to a moratorium on parking enforcement in some cities. Another positive: crashes involving drivers under the influence are down this year.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department data shows that there were fewer than half as many DUI incidents from January through May in 2020 compared to the city’s average number of DUIs for the same months from 2015 through 2019.
Missouri Highway Patrol data shows the same trend for drug- and alcohol-involved crashes, which are down across the state compared to previous years. From 2016 through 2019, the months of January through June average more than 100 deaths and 1,700 injuries in crashes statewide where drugs or alcohol were a factor. The total for 2020 so far is 69 deaths and 937 injuries.
The rate of DUI crashes in the first half of the year routinely averages more than 500 per month, but in 2020 the MSHP data shows just 111 drug or alcohol involved crashes in April and 168 in May.
And for the first time in five years, there were no deaths in crashes involving drugs or alcohol in April or June within the Troop C region, covering St. Louis and the surrounding counties, according to data published so far.
With many factors affecting safety on the roads, it’s hard to know if there are actually fewer people driving impaired or if those drivers are just less likely to crash because of decreased traffic.
Corporal Juston Wheetley with MSHP Troop C says that despite the DUI decreases, there are still impaired drivers on the road.
“The short answer is we are still arresting people for DWI and still seeing DWI related crashes,” said Wheetley.
Social distancing regulations haven’t stopped officers from conducting DUI stops and tests, he added. “For our field sobriety tests, we still administer them as we normally would. Our officers are provided with the appropriate equipment to keep themselves safe.”
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