In the past five years, fewer drunken drivers have been arrested in Johnson County, which could be a sign that police checkpoints and education blitzes are working, police said.
In 2008, just more than 1,000 drivers were arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. In 2012, that number had fallen by nearly 34 percent to 672.
Police said they are on track to make even fewer arrests this year.
Federally funded education about the consequences of drunken driving, special police checkpoints and patrols looking for impaired drivers have all helped, Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper said.
State police officers are setting up checkpoints Friday and Saturday nights in Johnson County and other central Indiana counties, as well as sending out officers specifically looking for drunken drivers.
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office arrested five motorists on driving under the influence charges in one weekend this month, but that’s unusual, Sheriff Doug Cox said.
So far this year, police have made 421 arrests in the county on operating while intoxicated charges, and if those numbers stay the same, the county is on track to have fewer than 600 arrests at the end of the year.
Officials believe the number of arrests is decreasing locally due to more people knowing the serious consequences drunken drivers face and being aware that police are specifically looking for them, Cooper said.
“You get arrested for drunk driving anymore, there’s really no defense,” Cooper said.
A first-time offender who is convicted for a drunken driving charge in the county can be fined up to $10,000, has to do 48 hours of community service and serve one year of probation, on top of paying court costs and attorney’s fees, he said.
The number of alcohol-related crashes has not changed in line with the number of arrests, however.
Across the state, drunken driving automobile accidents have increased 10 percent from 2008 to 2012.
State police said 158 people were killed in accidents involving an impaired driver last year, which was up from 2011, and 2,112 were injured. Accidents involving at least one driver who was impaired made up about 24 percent of the year’s 540 driver deaths, according to a news release from Indiana State Police.
In the past five years in Johnson County, three drunken driving arrests were connected to fatal accidents. Overall, the number of alcohol-related crashes has stayed about the same in the county in recent years.