Drunk-driving arrests spike in Summit County
Ryan Summerlin January 6, 2013
It was approximately 2 a.m. when the Jeep came speeding around a bend on the steep Ski Hill Road in Breckenridge. Police say the driver lost control of the vehicle, went off the road and rolled the SUV.
One passenger was killed in the crash, another injured.
The driver was arrested for vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and driving under the influence of alcohol.
It was one of more than 400 DUI arrests in Summit County last year, a number that spiked 30 percent from 2011.
“This is very personal to me,” Summit County Sheriff John Minor stated in a recent release from local law- enforcement agencies. “Having had a family member killed by a drunk driver, even a single DUI arrest is one too many in my opinion.”
Twenty-two people were arrested for driving under the influence in Summit County during the holiday season alone. Two people were killed in car accidents in which alcohol was a suspected factor in Summit County last year.
Officials say they can’t pinpoint the reason for the increase in DUI arrests with any certainty, but they suspect an increase in visitors to the county might have had an impact.
“There could be a variety of reasons,” 5th Judicial District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said. “Certainly more enforcement, but we’re also seeing more people up here as the economy starts to recover.”
A number of the individuals arrested for DUIs last year were non-local drivers, he said.
The majority of crime in Summit County is drug or alcohol related, according to the DA’s office.
A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates one in three people are involved in a drunk-driving crash in their lifetimes and 27 people are killed daily in alcohol-related accidents.
“We’ve got to make this a focus not only on special occasions like New Year’s Eve,” Silverthorne police chief Mark Hanschmidt stated. “If we’re going to save lives, we’ve got to convince people to make smart decisions year-round.”
In an effort to do that, local law-enforcement agencies are pushing information regarding DUI arrests and convictions out to the public.
Convicted drunk drivers can face between $10,000- $15,000 in fines and additional costs if the case goes to trial. If someone is killed in an accident involving alcohol the driver can be charged with vehicular homicide, a class 3 felony that carries a penalty of up to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.
A local man who pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide after killing a pedestrian in a drunk-driving crash in Keystone earlier this year was sentenced to six years in a community corrections facility.
“If you’re drinking, don’t get behind the wheel,” Minor stated. “It’s not worth it.”