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DWI arrests, crashes dropping

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By David Giuliani

Statistics show that DWI arrests and crashes in San Miguel County have dropped dramatically since 2004.

According to numbers from the University of New Mexico, 459 DWI arrests were recorded in the county in 2004, a number that dropped nearly 30 percent to 323 in 2008.

The greatest drop in the county was for repeat offenders, decreasing from 261 in 2004 to 172 in 2008, a difference of 34 percent.

The total number of crashes also fell during that period — from 791 to 310. Alcohol-involved crashes also took a plunge from 74 to 28, a nearly 60 percent drop.

During the same period, the number of DWI arrests statewide decreased, but it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as that in San Miguel County, according to the UNM numbers. The same goes for the state’s numbers of alcohol-involved crashes.

Wendy Armijo, the coordinator for San Miguel County’s anti-DWI program, attributed some of the drop to the start of the Safe Ride Home service, in which country drivers take home intoxicated people from bars. She said the program served nearly 1,000 in a year’s time.

She also credited the work of other agencies in combatting DWI.

Armijo said that while some have criticized Safe Ride Home as encouraging people to go to bars to drink, she said the service goes right to her program’s mission — reducing alcohol-involved crashes and fatalities.

Safe Ride Home takes drunken drivers off the streets, she said.

“There is a method to our madness here,” she said during a report to the County Commission this week.

The commission asked Armijo about the numbers of rides to places in the county distant from Las Vegas.

She said the service gets very few such calls. But she said her program doesn’t deny such rides, noting that 70 percent of DWI crashes occur in rural areas.

“It’s vitally important that we provide rides to rural communities,” Armijo said.