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Police see decrease in alcohol-related crashes in Roanoke

Published On: Jan 08 2014 10:42:32 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 08 2014 11:44:07 PM EST

Roanoke DUI Grant


Time and money are running out on a program used to keep Roanoke city streets safe.

In February 2012, the city received funds that were to be used to reduce drunk driving. However, the grant is set to expire next month.

Roanoke qualified for the grant money because the number of alcohol-related car crashes in the area was higher than Virginia's average.

"This is a tragedy that can be easily prevented," said Ray Bemis with the Roanoke Prevention Alliance.

Bemis is part of a large team made up of the prevention council and Roanoke City Police Department that has spent the past two years working hard to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents.

"We've had DUI's during the day, we've had DUIs at night," said Sgt. Jimmy Price. "There's no set time for DUI's to occur."

Roanoke used the grant money to invest in television ads, radio spots and online message boards. It's all a part of an anti drunk driving campaign that specifically targets people between the ages of 21 and 24 years old. The message tells people to have a plan. If you plan on drinking make sure you have a safe way to get home.

"We wanted to increase the perception or get people to realize that if they drink and drink they will get caught," said Bemis. "They will get arrested and there will be consequences."

According to the most recent statistics, it appears the educational campaign is working.

There's been a 7% increase in citations and a 30% decrease in alcohol-related crashes from April 1 to September 30, according to Bemis.

In addition to the media ads, the grant also pays for checkpoints and saturation patrols.

Bemis said they focus much of their efforts on major holidays like St. Patrick's Day, New Year's Eve, Halloween and Thanksgiving.

According to the Roanoke City Police Department, they issue the highest number of DUI citations along Williamson Road, Orange Avenue and in the downtown district.

Roanoke was one of 12 cities to receive the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant in February 2012.

Price said he is happy with how the numbers have decreased over the years for alcohol related crashes.

Below is a breakdown of DUI citations for the past four years:

2010 - 420
2011 - 443
2012 - 458
2013 - 401

Below is a breakdown of alcohol related accidents in Roanoke:

2010 - 100
2011 - 123
2012 - 103
2013 - 93

A Roanoke City Police Department spokesman said the numbers for 2013 are subject to change.