Denton police data shows a decrease in the number of Driving While Intoxicated arrests over the past four years.
In 2017, up to April 12, Denton police reported 84 DWI arrests. In 2016, 96 were reported, which was 12 more in the same time period. 2015 had 106 cases reported, 2014 had 127.
“We are going in the correct direction, I think that things like Uber and Lyft, that sort of ride-sharing are helping a lot too,” Denton police spokesman Bryan Cose said. “When I started here we had only one taxi company that was only running one or two cars and they closed shop at 11 o’clock.”
Uber was available in Denton on Feb. 10 of 2015, and Lyft was available soon after. Officer Cose believes that before Uber and Lyft people who went to bars and had too much to drink did not have a way to get home safely, “now there are plenty of options to get home safely.”
DWIs in 2017
Up to April 12 Denton police, together with UNT police, arrested a total of 168 people on DWI charges. For university police, DWIs account for the largest number of arrests, while for Denton police charges like theft, assault and shoplifting are more common.
Most DWI arrests by Denton police occurred on early Sunday mornings. Up to April 12, the 84 arrests by Denton police included: 19 on Sundays, 15 on Saturdays , 15 on Fridays, five on Thursdays, 12 on Wednesdays, eight on Tuesdays and 10 on Mondays. On February 19, four people were arrested, this being the most DWI arrests in a day in 2017 so far.
UNT police will not provide day-to-day data for arrests in 2017 until Oct. 1 of 2018, when the Annual Security Report is released.
How the police deals with DWIs
Texas is one of the 13 states in the United States that does not allow alcohol checkpoints. Texas also does not allow the use of Intoxilyzer tests on the street. Only after the suspect goes to jail are the police allowed to do a breath or blood test.
“I can tell you that the vast majority of people that do get arrested here in Denton, they are pretty well over an .08 [blood-alcohol content],” Cose said.
When a police officer gets indications that a driver is intoxicated, after pulling over the car, the officer makes a short interview. If this leads to more suspicion, the next step in Texas is a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST), which is the same everywhere nationally.
The SFST is a combination of three tests which are made in a specific chronological order; The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is a tremor of a person’s eyeball, which occurs as the eyes gaze to the side.
According to DUI Justice Link, “The examiner looks for three indicators of impairment in each eye: if the eye cannot follow a moving object smoothly, if jerking is distinct and sustained nystagmus when the eye is at maximum deviation, or if the angle of onset of jerking is prior to 45 degrees of center.”
If the person in the test has any eye disease, those need to be informed to the officer for a more clear read.
The second test is the walk-and-turn test, the person is asked to walk over an imaginary or a real line, turn on one foot in the end and walk the way back. In this test the officer will be looking at certain clues like balance while listening to the instructions, whether the person begins before the instructions are finished, and if the person stops to remain balanced. Others include not touching feet heel-to-toe, using arms to balance, and stepping out of the line and taking more or fewer steps than asked.
Last is the one-leg stand test, the person is asked to stand on one foot, with the other one approximately six inches away from the ground for a total of 30 seconds. The clues for this test include not maintaining balance, using arms to help, hopping and putting the foot down.
“Officers here in Denton use the same sobriety test that officers use in New York City, or Anchorage, Alaska, all over the U.S.,” Cose said.
Officer Cose is also a DWI teacher for the other officers. Denton police has a mandatory annual class to refresh the techniques to apply the SFST.
Featured photo: File photo