DWI cases declining in Vermont

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(Host) State highway safety officials are encouraged that the number of DWI cases in Vermont is declining. They believe that higher profile law enforcement programs have played an important role in the effort.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) For the past six weeks, local, county and state law enforcement officials have been conducting a coordinated campaign to discourage Vermonters from drinking and driving. The campaign, which has been focused on 10 regions of the state, will conclude in the next few days.

Ted Minall, who is the law enforcement liaison to the Governor’s Highway Safety Commission, says the campaign has two key elements:

(Minall) “It has to be education joined with enforcement. There has to be a strong message for people out there not to get in your car if you’ve been drinking at all. The campaign is called ‘DUI. You can’t afford it,’ and that’s exactly what it means. It’s just not worth it to get in your car if you’ve been drinking.”

(Kinzel) Highway Safety Spokesperson Steve Reckers says a preliminary review of driving accidents indicates that the number of alcohol related crashes is down. That’s a sign to Reckers that the educational component of the campaign is working:

(Reckers) “The people who used to drink and drive, the social drinkers is what we used to call them, have got the message. And the people who still drink and maybe think they’re going to drive, have somebody – a girlfriend a husband a wife a significant other – that are driving them or preventing them from driving.”

(Kinzel) Reckers is also encouraged because the number of overall driving fatalities in Vermont is on the decline.

(Reckers) “And it’s because of all the things that are going on – the increased enforcement for seat belts and drunk driving, the public’s perception of drunk drivers, the public’s acceptance and use of seat belts. That all contributes to safer cars, safer roads. Everything is contributing to drive down that death toll.”

(Kinzel) Reckers says the number of traffic fatalities this year is down roughly 10% from a year ago.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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