State Attorney’s Fund for a Safer and Healthier Community, Driving Under the Influence Research Project

In order to study a substantial decline in DUI arrests in Miami-Dade County, Florida, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago was engaged to conduct a Miami-Dade County driving-under-the-influence (DUI) project, supported through the Safer and Healthier Communities Fund administered by The Miami Foundation in partnership with the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office. The objective of this research project was to provide a plan for improving DUI enforcement and prosecution resulting from the research and analyses carried out for this project: the analysis of (1) existing DUI related data; (2) a telephone survey of reported knowledge, attitudes and behaviors concerning impaired driving, (3) roadside surveys conducted in Miami-Dade County; (4) information from focus group discussions with police and prosecutors in Miami-Dade County and (5) a comprehensive review of the best DUI prevention practices and enforcement strategies used in the US.

Based upon the data and information gathered in this project, the following Action Plan is recommended for Miami-Dade County: (1) Police chiefs need to find ways to overcome law enforcement apathy toward DUI enforcement and persuade their traffic enforcement officers to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to identifying and making impaired driving stops. (2) Miami-Dade County police agencies should join forces to conduct more sobriety checkpoints. Checkpoints are safer for both the police and the drivers going through them and serve as a deterrent to impaired driving. (3) The State Attorney's Office (SAO), with cooperation from the county's certified drug recognition experts (DREs) should design and offer training on DUI enforcement to all officers in the evidence and documentation needed so the SAO can present the strongest case possible.

To determine the percent of drivers out driving in Miami-Dade County on Friday and Saturday nights who had alcohol and/or other drugs in their system, roadside surveys with approximately 200 drivers were analyzed. Drivers voluntarily gave researchers breath tests for alcohol and oral fluid for other drugs. The percent of drivers impaired by alcohol (breath alcohol concentration (BrAC)>.05 grams per deciliter (g/dL)) in these roadside surveys increased from 3.1% in 2007 to 6.2% in 2013-2014 to 7.4% in 2017. The percent of drivers with marijuana in their systems also increased from 2.9% in 2007 to 14.1% in 2013-2014, but decreased slightly to 11.5% in 2017.

It is clear that DUI arrests have decreased significantly in Miami-Dade County over the past 8 years (64%), much more than the decrease in DUI arrests in Florida and the United States. It is also clear from crash analyses and roadside surveys that alcohol-impaired and drug-impaired driving have increased over that time period. Instead of decreasing, DUI arrests should be increasing. An overwhelming majority of Miami-Dade County drivers (82%) believe it is very important for law enforcement to enforce DUI laws.