DUI enforcementThe Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Patrol, and local law enforcement officers arrested 396 people for driving while impaired during the annual St. Patrick’s Day “The Heat Is On” enforcement period, which ran from March 11 through March 18, CDOT reported.

The number of arrests is down from last year, when officials arrested 505 drivers for impairment. CDOT spokesman Sam Cole told this blog that the reason for the reduction in arrests is not known at this time:

It could certainly be a factor of people being more safe and taking alternative transportation or could be a factor of less law enforcement participation in the campaign this year.

Joint DUI Enforcement

The enforcement effort was a combined effort of 79 agencies. The largest number of results, by agency, included 46 arrests by the Aurora Police Department, 44 arrests by the Denver Police Department, 32 arrests by the Colorado Springs Police Department, and 27 arrests by the Colorado State Patrol.

DUI enforcement campaign

Smartphone Breathalyzers

In another aspect of The Heat Is On, CDOT tested the blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 100 drinkers using smartphone breathalyzers at the Irish Snug in Denver.

The testers compared the drinkers’ BAC with the legal Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) limit in Colorado of .05%; and the state’s Driving Under the Influence (DUI) BAC of .08%. Testers reminded drinkers not to drive, but to take advantage of alternate transportation, like taxis and ride-share services, to avoid car accidents.

CDOT representatives found that bar patrons tested had an average BAC of .066%. Among the test results, the highest BAC was .165% and the lowest was .038%.

Colorado State Patrol Chief Col. Scott Hernandez said:

Many drivers are unaware that they can still be arrested on suspicion of DUI with a BAC level below the .08 limit.

But when an officer sees signs of impairment and the driver fails a roadside sobriety test, the officer will arrest the driver.

Differing Alcohol Impairment

CDOT wrote about a fascinating experiment the department conducted, showing that each person’s metabolism is different when it comes to drinking and blood alcohol levels.

Four volunteers were recruited for a drinking experiment that proved that the same amount of alcohol can produce different levels of alcohol impairment in different people. Volunteers each consumed four of the same alcoholic beverages over two hours. Their BAC was calculated with a breathalyzer between each drink.

After only two drinks, three of the four participants were high enough above the BAC legal limit to receive a DWAI (.05), with both female participants over the DUI limit (.08). The final BAC results were .143, .141, .113, and .059, which shows how gender, food intake and body mass all affect BAC levels.

The Heat Is On features 12 high-visibility campaigns throughout the year, and the next is the Spring Events enforcement period, which runs from April 9 through May 15.

Colorado Legislator Arrested for DUI

In a related news item, Colorado State Rep. Dan Pabon (D-District 4) was arrested for DUI on St. Patrick’s Day in Denver, Anica Padilla and Jennifer Kovaleski reported for The Denver Channel. The arrest took place at around 11:40 p.m. near West Colfax Avenue and Glenarm Place, according to Raquel Lopez of the Denver Police. Pabon’s speech was slurred, he was mumbling, and he was swaying and staggering, with a “strong odor of an unknown alcoholic beverage,” according to the probable cause statement.

Pabon, who had no prior DUI convictions, failed field sobriety tests and was brought to Denver Health Medical Center for a blood test. He was released to a sober person after processing.

Pabon, the House speaker pro tempore, gave an emotional apology on the state House floor Monday, Joey Bunch and John Frank reported for The Denver Post. Sobbing, Pabon, 38, apologized to his wife, children, family, colleagues and the community. “I will work tirelessly to restore your confidence in me.”

The Denver Channel pointed out that, ironically, Pabon is the sponsor of legislation that would require convicted drunk drivers to appear before a DUI Victim Panel.

Image by Neydt/123RF.

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