The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was identified in Washington in January, 2020. One year later in January, 2021 the country is in the worst phase of the pandemic yet. While businesses across the country have been forced to adapt to the changing times, so too have the behaviors of consumers.
One of these behaviors in non-pandemic times, albeit illegal and incredibly dangerous, that has decreased is drunk driving. Due to local, county and state orders, watering holes from California to Connecticut have been forced to shut their doors.
Although the closure of local bars and eateries has caused massive financial stressors to local small business owners and employees, one of the silver linings is that COVID-19 has led to a decrease in car accidents in several states. With a decrease in bars, bar patrons being served alcohol at bars and said patrons having to get from point “A” to point “B” also in turn decreases the amount of drunk drivers on the road.
Where Have Drunk Driving Accidents Decreased During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Accidents caused by individuals driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) have decreased in several different states across the country, other states remain flat or with little change to pre-covid DUI, or DWI instances . According to the National Council of State Legislatures, states including California and Hawaii have decreased during the stay-at-home orders, while other states have experienced different trends and DUIs have increased.
Where Have Drunk Driving Accidents Increased During The COVID-19 Pandemic?
While states like California and Hawaii have decreased amounts of driving under the influence cases, other states have not had the same outcome. In the State of Colorado, DUI deaths from January 1 – April 30, 2020 doubled over the same period of time from 2019.
In Pennsylvania DUIs were up and approached near pre-pandemic levels in the Summer of 2020. This was the case even with much of the state and bars shuttered as a result of the pandemic restrictions on bars.
In Austin, the Capitol of Texas, drunk driving behavior and trends remained relatively flat over the same period of time from 2019. A Mothers Against Drunk Driving program manager named Nikki Vicknair anticipated that Austin would have a reduced amount of DWI cases, but even with Bars closed over the first few weekends of May 2020, were comparable to DUI incidents in the pre-pandemic period of 2019.
Nikki Vicknair stated, “During the pandemic we expected the number of drunk driving arrests to decrease because fewer people were on the roads, but it did not stop”.
So What’s the Consensus?
With different local, county and state jurisdictions regarding the pandemic and how to respond, the response and amount of closures varied from one place to another. Even in states where there were similar responses where non-essential businesses were forced to close, including bars, different states and local entities had different results.
Due to the difference from one jurisdiction to the next, there is no one consensus that reflects the actual data on a more local and state level. While the national average of DUIs may be decreasing, local DUI’s may be increasing (as seen in Pennsylvania). Due to this, it is important to check local data regarding DUIs in a specific locality.