Casper Officials: DUI Numbers Must Go Down Over the Holidays
The numbers are uncomfortably numbing.
"Where is the outrage," Casper College instructor and state Rep. Art Washut asked at the annual launch of the local law enforcement holiday anti-drunk-driving campaign -- "You Can't Candy-coat a DUI" -- at the Wyoming Medical Center on Wednesday.
For example, seven people in recent months have died by vaping products with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, Washut said.
"That's not anywhere close to what happens daily on our highways," he said..
Yet more than 190,000 Americans -- including nearly 1,000 in Wyoming -- have died because of drunk drivers since 2000, Washut said.
He asked about the perspective of that compared to the attention given to a handful of people dying from THC.
"Are the deaths at the hands of drunk drivers somehow more acceptable because they are scattered throughout the country and over the years, as opposed to occurring in large numbers all at once?"
Washut asked to consider the scale of response if 190,000 people, or nearly 1,000 Wyomingites, had been killed by terrorists, drug cartels, grizzly bears or mosquitoes.
Washut noted the anti-DUI campaigns have made progress -- about 18,000 people dying in the 1980s compared to about 10,000 now -- they still have a way to go.
Public attitudes, he said, have changed from the time when entertainers got lots of laughs with drunk-driving jokes. Those jokes now would elicit a groan because too many people know of someone who died from drunk driving, Washut said.
Wednesday, the event was moderated by Casper College student Gavin Self, who added another number: About 34 of the approximately 100 Wyoming highway fatalities in 2018 involved drunk drivers.
The day before Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday drinking season, and it some places it's known as "blackout Wednesday," Self said. "With your help, we can succeed in driving these numbers down."
Matt Galloway, owner of several restaurants that serve alcohol and the president of the Natrona County Liquor Dealers, said he stands behind the anti-DUI efforts and works to ensure patrons get home safely and that they make a plan.
"The best assurance against making the worst decision of one's life is preventative behavior," Galloway said.
Mayor Charlie Powell referenced his work as a psychologist who has seen the consequence of drunk driving, offered this number: A driver arrested for DUI probably has driven drunk 75 to 220 times, but wasn't caught, he said.
"That's why each DUI has to be taken very seriously so that we can create a deterrent, which is what we're trying to do today ... because lives are lost every day due to driving under the influence."