By Heather Leiphart, Student Reporter
As of Wednesday morning, the Abilene Police Department has reported 80 intoxicated drivers on the streets since Jan. 1, an increase of 60 percent from the same period last year. The department expects total DWI investigations for 2009 to include at least 115 more incidents than last year, if the trend continues.
“DWI is a growing problem locally,” said Jimmy Ellison, chief of the ACU Police Department. “Not only may drinking and driving be on the increase, but law enforcement efforts at DWI enforcement are also significantly increased.”
The APD’s Public Information Officer Keith Shackleford attributes the increased incidents to the recent economic downturn.
ACU has not experienced any significant problems related to the rise of drunk driving in Abilene. However, college students in general can tend to make poor choices, and ACU is not immune, Ellison said.
ACU’s alcohol policy prohibits possession, consumption or distribution of alcoholic beverages on campus or at university-sponsored events. Off-campus students of legal age are no longer prohibited from drinking, but must abide by Texas law, a change instituted last semester.
The ACU Police Department has not seen any drastic increase of deviant behavior or unusual activities attributable to the new alcohol policy, Ellison said.
“I don’t ever want to see people assuming that this new alcohol policy has any kind of correlation to a spike in DWI arrests or off-campus alcohol disturbances because we simply have not seen it,” Ellison said. “I think that’s a credit to the maturity level of our students.”
Last year, 585 total DWI incidents were reported. In 2007, 477 were reported.
“The fact remains, whether there’s more or less than there was before, there’s still too many that are out there,” Shackleford said. “It’s an individual choice different than any other crime because it’s 100 percent preventable. There’s just no excuse to get behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking.”