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DUI arrests rise in July as alcohol-related fatalities decline

by REED PERRY
Staff Writer | August 9, 2020 1:30 AM

If you can’t overdrink at your own watering hole, where do you go?

North Idaho, apparently.

DUIs were up slightly in July compared to a year ago in Kootenai County — from 39 to 48.

“We’ve been getting a lot of out of state,” said Officer Nick Knoll, part of the Coeur d’Alene Police DUI Team. “Bars are closed [in Washington], so they’re coming here. We’re seeing more people from the Spokane area.”

Due to pandemic restrictions and voluntary shutdowns, most Spokane-area bars have closed. According to Knoll, this has resulted in an influx of bar-goers who drink above the limit and then try to drive back to Washington.

“COVID drove an interesting wrinkle in our numbers,” said Knoll, referencing a steep drop off in DUIs during the April lockdown. “But my perception from working DUIs is that they’re much easier to find. And the blood alcohol levels are pretty high.”

According to Knoll, the average BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of DUI arrests over the last 30 days was 0.16 — or twice the legal limit. Knoll explained that “for a 200-pound male to reach that level he would have to drink eight beers in an hour, or 10 to 15 beers in a few hours.”

Knoll says drunk driving occurs at all times.

“On a typical weekend, we see 10-15 DUIs,” he said, “But it seems harder to find DUI on weekdays.”

Knoll also suspects that weekend drinkers have a plan for getting home, where weekday drinkers often go out after work or go overboard and then have to get their car home.

“We do training for DUI,” Knoll explained, “and I’ve seen a pattern. We bring people in who drink and monitor their BAC. After a couple beers they feel impaired, and don’t plan on driving. But after a few more they feel like they’re fine and believe they can drive. Even smart people get impaired judgment from alcohol.”

“In my experience, there are three main kinds of DUIs,” he said, “First there are people who just don’t care about the law and often don’t even care if they get arrested. There are people who know they shouldn’t drive and are just trying to go a short distance home. And then there are people who think they are fine to drive even though they’re severely impaired.”

DUIs aren’t just alcohol-related. Many involve meth and marijuana.

“We have a significant problem with drug impaired drivers,” Knoll said. “There are impaired drivers all over the place. I was doing seat-belt stops recently in the middle of the day and stopped a lady who was drunk, high on meth, admitted to doing meth and was pregnant. It was her third DUI in two years.”

Knoll was a grant writer for the countywide DUI Task Force. He reports that in 2018, alcohol was a factor in 60 percent of all fatal crashes. Since the task force started, fatal wrecks involving alcohol have dropped to 20 percent.