18% of Sioux Falls DUI arrests are happening during the day

Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 11:04 PM CST
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Drunk driving is typically thought of a nighttime problem; people staying late at the bar and then trying to drive home under the cover of darkness.

But in the city of Sioux Falls new numbers show that DUI arrests are happening in increasing numbers during daytime hours.

And while this would be surprising news for many to hear...for those on the front lines of law enforcement and substance abuse treatment it comes as no surprise at all.

When the sun rises over Sioux Falls and its the start of a new day most people are waking up and getting a fresh start.

But for some in the city that sunrise brings with in a new kind of beginning. A new time to drink. A new time to abuse drugs. And they don't let something like getting behind the wheel stop them.

"When we do school zone enforcements at the beginning of the school year there's times when we will have 1-2 DWI arrests that happen then." The concept of daytime DUI is not a foreign concept to Sioux Falls Police Officer Sam Clemens, who tells me that while the greater percentage of DUI arrests happen late at night or one should be taken aback by the idea that people are either drunk or high and driving during the day. "You don't know what all these other drivers on the roadway are doing, you don't know If they're in a right mind or if they're in an impaired state."

Dakota News Now requested a records review from Sioux Falls Police for the year 2019. We wanted to know how many DUI arrests there were last year and how many of those arrested happened between the hours of 6 AM AND 6 PM.

Out of 904 total D-U-Is for 2019....164 of them happened during that 12 hour period we requested.

And when you do the math you come up with 18%. Nearly one out of every 5 DUI arrests in Sioux Falls are happening during daytime hours.

"We have people coming and going to work, we have students who are walking to and from school or driving to and from school." There is no good time for the threat of a DUI driver....but Darcy Jensen with Prairie View Prevention tells me daytime hours are particularly bad. She says those who get busted for a daytime DUI are typically those with a serious addiction problem. "They're gonna use when they feel they need to use. When their addiction is calling them to use. Not at a specific safe time."

And what further adds to the concern....whether it be day or night...are new statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on how often DUI drivers have been behind the wheel before they are finally caught and arrested. Jensen told us, "People will have driven under the influence 80 times....80 times...before they are arrested. I had to look at that twice because I thought that's a huge number and I had to make sure I was looking at that correctly."

But all these facts and numbers tell only part of the story. The rest of the story has to be told by someone who knows the sorrow those facts can bring.

"There are some days where I know I have a dead son and I'm OK and I can function and there are other days where it's...oh that's son was killed." This is Amy Johnson. A little more than eight years her 16 year son Zachary was walking home after a night out with friends when a man...who had been day drinking for behind the wheel and tried to drive home. He hit Zachary at 50 miles an hour and killed him. "The guy had been in the bar all afternoon."

The drinking happened during the day and the guy didn't have very far to drive. He thought it would be fine.

It was not. At all. It never is. Amy Johnson's story while tragic is not unique. People in South Dakota die at the hands of impaired drivers every year. Yet it keeps happening. Amy says she doesn't want anyone's pity. She wants change. "I don't want you to feel sorry for me. I want you to not drink and drive."

Amy's son is a memory. He was killed in DeSmet. The family moved away from there not too long after the accident. They now live in Amy's hometown of Worthington where they operate this second hand store. She said she wanted to talk with me to give her son a voice he no longer has while hoping to spare other families the pain she knows all too well. "This has got to stop."

And back here in Sioux Falls.....Officer Sam Clemens says the numbers tell a story that it likely is not going to stop or slow down.

While daytime DUI arrests are now at 18% they are likely to go up and of those 18% arrested....those are the ones police were able to find. there is no way of knowing how many are slipping through.

"You have to imagine that there's a certain percentage of people that are going to do what they want to do regardless of what the law is and when you have a bigger population you've got a bigger percentage of those people that are going to break the law." says Clemens.

So what can you do to protect yourself from this?

I asked Officer Clemens and the thing he told me was if you see a car bobbing and weaving in traffic during daytime hours call the police. The same as you would at night. He says there can be a feeling of writing off something like that because it's happening during the day and that drivers might think there's no way someone would be drunk when the sun is up.

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