New Year Means Big Problems for 272 Impaired Drivers

Heat Is On Campaign logs over 7,000 arrests in 2016

By the Numbers

  • 272: Arrests during the 2016 New Year's Eve The Heat is On campaign
  • 102: Participating law enforcement agencies
  • 197: People killed in impaired driving crashes in 2016 in Colorado
  • 7,272: People arrested as part of the 12 The Heat is On enforcement periods in 2016
  • 0.05 percent: Colorado's blood alcohol limit (BAC) for driving while ability impaired (DWAI)
  • 0.08 percent: Colorado's BAC for driving under the influence (DUI).
  • $13,500+: Average cost of a DUI

Parties and celebrations rang in the New Year across Colorado, but for 272 impaired drivers, the ring came from law enforcement sirens instead of festive horns and whistles.

From Dec. 30, 2016, to Jan. 3, 2017, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Colorado State Patrol (CSP) and statewide law agencies collaborated to ensure state roads were free of impaired drivers as part of The Heat Is On New Year's Eve DUI enforcement. The 272 arrests were a decrease from the 396 drivers arrested during last year's enforcement.

One hundred and two agencies participated in the enforcement period, with Aurora Police Department (30 arrests), Colorado Springs Police Department (23 arrests) and Denver Police Department (17 arrests) recording the highest arrest totals. CSP also reported 39 arrests statewide. (Access all results statewide. Arrest data can be sorted by county, law enforcement agency, and enforcement period.)

"Impaired drivers are a significant obstacle in our effort to achieve zero traffic deaths," said Darrell Lingk, director of the Office of Transportation Safety at CDOT. "We will continue to pursue effective means to ensure people are not driving impaired in 2017, and that will include several DUI enforcement periods."

In 2016, 197 people were killed in impaired driving crashes in Colorado, according to preliminary data from CDOT. This was an increase from the 182 fatalities recorded in 2015. There was one alcohol-related fatality during the New Year's enforcement period, according to preliminary data.

"We encourage people to take appropriate action anytime they see someone too impaired to drive," said Col. Scott Hernandez, chief of the CSP. "It's easy to call a taxi, Uber or Lyft, or take public transit home. The cost of a ride home is much less than the price an impaired driver will pay—financially and legally—for a DUI."

The New Year's Eve enforcement capped the 2016 The Heat Is On enforcement periods. During the 12 enforcements, law enforcement arrested 7,272 drivers for DUI, according to preliminary results. The enforcement periods lasted between four and 108 days, depending on the event.

The legal BAC limit in Colorado is 0.05 percent for driving while ability impaired (DWAI) and 0.08 percent for driving under the influence (DUI). First-time DUI offenders can be punished with up to one year in jail, license suspension and thousands of dollars in fines.

On average, a DUI can cost more than $13,500 after considering fines, legal fees and increased insurance costs. Penalties increase for repeat offenders.

The CDOT Highway Safety Office provides funding to Colorado law enforcement for impaired driving enforcement, education and awareness campaigns. The Heat Is On campaign runs throughout the year with 12 specific high-visibility impaired driving enforcement periods centered on national holidays and large public events. Enforcement periods can include sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols and additional law enforcement on duty dedicated to impaired driving enforcement.

Learn more about the campaign, including impaired driving enforcement plans, arrest totals and safety tips at