Drunk Driving Arrests Increased in West Virginia in 2011

The director of the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program says arrests for driving under the influence increased in the past year, contradicting earlier reports.

The Charleston Gazette reported that Highway Safety Director Bob Tipton said that 2011 produced about 1,000 more DUI arrests than 2010 and that both years’ numbers are higher than state police recorded. That’s because he’s using figures from the Department of Motor Vehicles, which requires police to notify it when someone has been arrested on a DUI-related charge within 48 hours. State police had been using numbers from reports submitted to the National Incident-Based Reporting System. That’s a problem because not every DUI-related arrest gets turned into state police to compile for that report.

“For instance, when someone is not arrested when the incident occurred, because they were sent to the hospital, these kind of arrests go through the cracks,” Tipton said. “It’s not the full picture, but it is a picture. And I used to use (those numbers) in the past because it was the best I could get.”

Tipton says there were about 8,600 DUI arrests in 2011. In 2010, there were about 7,600 DUI arrests.

Last month, State Police Sgt. Michael Baylous said there were about 6,100 arrests in 2010. State Police officials said they expected about 5,000 arrests in 2011.

Baylous said he wasn’t wrong in reporting fewer arrests because he got the information from federal Uniform Crime Reporting data. However, he added, not every agency contributes to those reports.

“That’s why our numbers are not made public most of the time, because they don’t reflect all agencies,” Baylous said. “They only reflect the agencies that report to us.”

Tipton agreed that it’s not the state police’s job to audit the data.

He said the biggest problem in compiling DUI arrest figures is that there isn’t one structured process for collecting the data. Each West Virginia agency collects and reports the data in different ways.

“Trying to get accurate counts — it’s bad,” Tipton said. “There’s different agencies and different hands in the mix. If somebody doesn’t report something — or enough of it — it skews the numbers.”

Baylous originally attributed the lower DUI numbers in December to special grant money allocated for troopers and other law enforcement agencies to put more officers on the streets and highways.

Tipton said increased patrols might have led to more arrests.