TBI: DUI arrests rise in city, Tennessee in 2014 (interactive)

TBI: DUI arrests rise in city, Tennessee in 2014 (interactive)

January 28th, 2015 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

Total DUI arrests, 2014

* 944 -- Chattanooga Police Department
* 1,238 -- Tennessee Highway Patrol, District 2
* 29,554 -- Total DUI arrests for all of Tennessee

Source: Chattanooga Police Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol, TBI

More Tennesseans were arrested for driving under the influence in 2014 than 2013, according to a new annual report from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Across the state, law enforcement agents arrested 29,544 people for DUI -- 639 more arrests than in 2013, according to the report, which must be submitted to the Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate each year by Feb. 1.

DUI arrests also increased locally during 2014 -- both Chattanooga police and the Tennessee Highway Patrol arrested more drivers in 2014 than 2013.

Both departments credited a change in techniques for the jump in arrests. Police said they ramped up their focus on bar owners during 2014 to encourage them to stop serving intoxicated customers and to help heavy drinkers get home safely.

And the Tennessee Highway Patrol used analytic software in 2014 to accurately predict when and where drunk drivers were most likely to crash while on the roads.

Troopers especially focused on several stretches of area highways where DUI accidents were likely -- including Highway 27, Rossville Boulevard and Highway 41 -- and sent extra troopers to those areas, said Capt. Jessie Brooks.

Officer Gary Frisbee demonstrates how the new mobile Intoximeters work while parked at the Police Services Center. Chattanooga police received two of the new units from TBI.

Officer Gary Frisbee demonstrates how the new mobile...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

"We identified areas that have a high rate of alcohol-related fatalities, and we adjusted our manpower to address those areas," he said. "We're just trying to keep everyone safe."

While the number of statewide DUI arrests was higher in 2014 than 2013, both years still ended with fewer arrests than 2012, when 32,999 people were taken in for driving while intoxicated.

Only 8 percent of 2014's DUI cases have so far worked through the court system and ended with a disposition, according to the report. But of those cases that are closed, about 2,500, 88 percent ended with a conviction or guilty plea to either DUI or a lesser charge.

Kate Ritchie, state program director for the Tennessee division of Mothers Against Drug Driving, said she thinks this year's higher arrest and conviction numbers are a testament to law enforcement.

Statewide DUI arrests by year

* 2014 -- 29,544
* 2013 -- 28,905
* 2012 -- 32,999

Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

"We are encouraged to see an 88 percent conviction rate, and while we would always like to see 100 percent of impaired drivers held accountable for their actions, we feel as though officers and prosecutors are working toward our common goal of eliminating impaired driving," she said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving released a report on Jan. 15 that gave Tennessee four out of five possible stars for DUI enforcement and laws. Tennessee received stars for its laws on ignition interlocks, sobriety checkpoints, no-refusal events and child endangerment laws.

Georgia also received four stars in the report.

Contact staff reporter Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or story ideas.


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