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Underage DUIs see 44 percent increase since 2012

By Melissa Catalanotto
On September 4, 2013

A tweet sent out by Orange County Sheriff’s Office last week has spurred concern among law enforcement and residents of the area surrounding UCF.

The tweet, sent Aug. 29, read “#OCSO deputies have seen #DUI spike esp underage #DUIs in #Alafaya Trail area,” and included a link to a video that shows a driver who appeared to be drunk swerving and being pulled over on Alafaya Trail near Sterling Central apartments.

OCSO Public Information Officer Jane Watrel said that in 2013, there have been 15 more DUIs among people ages 18-20 than last year; there have been 49 so far this year, compared with 34 in 2012.

“Our deputies are alarmed because they say they’ve never seen this dramatic increase in at least the last five years of patrolling out there in the UCF area,” Watrel said.

The pattern reflected trends on the UCF campus as well for the number of DUI incidents.

Reports from the UCF Police Department show that in 2011, there were 24 arrests on campus for DUI, while in 2012, there were 35.

However, in 2012, there were fewer citations on campus for underage drinkers; 18 in 2012 compared with 29 in 2011.

Not all of the incidents were UCF students or otherwise affiliated with the school, UCF spokesman Gene Kruckemyer said in an email.

Still, many UCF students think that though there are many bars in the area, such as Knight Library, The Mad Hatter and The Station, this problem shouldn’t be happening at the rate that it is.

“I think it’s unfortunate, but I almost feel like it’s kind of bound to happen when you’re dealing with a campus as large as UCF, and as big as the night life … is around the campus,” junior business major Kevin Donahue said.

During Labor Day weekend, there were about 10 different police agencies on special patrol to watch for drunk drivers, Watrel said.

She also said from 8 p.m. on Friday to 4 a.m. on Saturday, there were 60 extra members of law enforcement on the roads throughout Orange County.

They had also set up a checkpoint in the Pine Hills area; Watrel said authorities will set up checkpoints eight times a year around popular drinking holidays.

The next one will be around Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

The rise in DUI arrests have not only been among underage people. A press release from OCSO said this year there have been 535 total arrests, while in 2012 there were 518.

It also said that between Orange, Brevard and Osceola counties, there have been 1,703 arrests this year, compared with 1,636 in 2012.

Haseen Alam, a freshman political science major, said there is no excuse for people to be driving while they’re drunk and is concerned not only for his own safety but the safety of students who live along Alafaya.

“I’m a pedestrian and I kind of just walk everywhere and … that kind of troubles me,” Alam said. “Everybody needs a designated driver, I’m pretty sure that’s the obvious thing to do.”

Watrel said sheriffs simply want to make sure everyone in the area, especially students back in school, is safe.

“With underage drinkers, it appears to be a big problem because our deputies feel that there’s no excuse for not recognizing you’re drunk,” she said. “If you’re intoxicated, there’s no reason you can’t text or call or have a designated driver. This is so preventable.”

Kimberly Martin, a junior psychology major, said she thinks part of the problem is bars in the area not always checking IDs to verify everyone going in is 21 or older, as well as how cheap alcohol can be.

“They didn’t check my ID properly, I drank for free the whole night,” Martin said, referring to a time she went out drinking. “Especially if you’re a girl, they’re not really checking very closely. You can easily drink for free.”

Martin used to promote party buses and said they are usually no more than $15 and can get you to several bars in downtown Orlando.

UCF also offers services for students who go out drinking.

A popular choice is the Knight LYNX bus, which has two routes on Friday and Saturday nights from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. and a third route that goes downtown from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on the same nights.

Another program offered by UCF is the Alcohol Emergency Procedure, which went into effect in June of last year.

The policy says that UCF students who call for medical attention for themselves of a fellow student due to alcohol-related emergencies may be exempted from disciplinary action. The policy reflects UCF administration’s goal of ensuring students’ health and is an option for students looking for a safe alternative to deal with drunkenness or alcohol-related medical emergencies.

The various options available to students are in place to prevent driving while drunk and are potential remedies to the increase of DUIs seen so far this year.

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