Drunken driving arrests by the Tennessee Highway Patrol are up statewide by 39 percent, but in Washington County, the state agency’s rate has nearly doubled.
The Johnson City Police Department also has seen an increase in DUI arrests so far this year, but not on the level of the THP. Statistics from JCPD show an 18 percent increase in 2011 — from 182 arrests from January to August in 2010 to 214 arrests for the same time period this year.
THP’s stats show there were 53 DUI arrests for the first eight months of 2010 and 103 — a 95 percent jump — for the same period this year. The two agencies made 317 arrests for DUI in Washington County from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31. Along with East Tennessee State University’s Public Safety Department’s 18 arrests on campus — which would include students or motorists using campus roads as a throughway — there have been 335 arrests.
It’s not a true reflection of the total arrests because statistics were not available for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office or Jonesborough Public Safety. The Johnson City Press requested the statistics for those agencies, but received no information.
So why the increase? THP Col. Tracy Trott said it’s more enforcement. Trott was appointed to his current position in September 2010 and made DUI enforcement a top focus.
“I think it’s just an emphasis from the top,” Trott said Friday. “When I made colonel in 2010, I made the decision we weren’t doing enough.”
To drive home the point to troopers, Trott said he told them “extensively” during in-service training sessions that “(we) really need to increase DUI enforcement,” and troopers responded well.
“I’ve been very fortunate. The troopers have responded really, really well.”
The corresponding effect of more DUI arrests is fewer traffic fatalities, Trott said.
As of Aug. 31, THP has worked 614 traffic fatalities, down from 699 in 2010. That is a 13.8 percent decrease, Trott said.
Arrests in other local counties have decreased for the THP, but not by much.
In Carter County, troopers have arrested 14 people for DUI so far this year while there were 17 by this time last year. In Unicoi County, there were 21 last year compared to 17 this year and in Johnson County, there were 13 last year compared to 11 this year.
But even with reductions in some counties, the THP has made 955 more arrests this year over last year.
With Trott’s position on getting drunken drivers off the road, arrests are certain to continue to climb.
“I believe that DUI enforcement is the most important duty of the Tennessee Highway Patrol,” Trott said.