COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Franklin County law enforcement agencies are teaming up to crack down on drunk drivers ahead of Labor Day weekend, when officials said they see a dramatic spike in drunk driving deaths.
In 2022, more than half of deadly crashes in the county involved someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Franklin County DUI task force is trying to bring that number down.
Over the last few years, the number of DUI arrests in the county has gone down. From October 2018 to September 2019, there were 6,226 DUI arrests in Franklin County. From that same time period in 2019 to 2020, that number was down to 4,243. It continued to decrease from 2020 to 2021, and numbers are still coming in for 2021 to 2022.
While those DUIs decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, when bars were closed and many people were at home, preliminary numbers for last year show DUI arrests continuing to trend down.
Law enforcement said presence is a big part of that. Checkpoints are one way that they make their presence known, but it’s not the way many of those DUI arrests are made.
From May to August of last year, there were only two arrests at checkpoints in that time frame.
“We get a relatively low number, but it puts the message out,” Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said. “We do make a lot of arrests for various reasons — no ops, warrants stuff like that, but the DUI part mainly from just routine patrol and saturation-type patrols.”
Law enforcement said there is a spike in people driving impaired as the summer winds down, school starts back up and tailgate season kicks off.
Ohio State University Campus Police said as students come back, it is also keeping an eye on people using electric scooters, which can also result in a DUI arrest.
“That’s also considered a DUI,” OSU Police Division Lt. Bruce Allen said. “We see far too many people get injured on those things. So, it’s not doing yourself any favors if you’re impaired and you’re driving a scooter; we don’t want anyone to get hurt and you’re particularly vulnerable on the scooter.”
In Ohio, law enforcement is required to tell the public when a DUI checkpoint will be held. The idea is to pick a location where at least 3% of crashes involve people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Task force members said the next checkpoint will be this Friday on the east side of Coumbus, where 5% of crashes fit that criterion.