Drunken-driving arrests up 220 percent since '70

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Arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol rose more than 220 percent from 1970 to 1986, while the number of licensed drivers increased by just 42 percent in that period, a government report says. In 1986, some 1.8 million people were arrested for driving under the influence, compared with 556,000 in 1970, said a report issued Sunday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 1983, the peak year, there were 1.9 million such arrests, one for every 80 drivers.

The study also found that rates for driving under the influence were highest among 21-year-olds, reaching a peak in 1983 with a rate of one arrest for every 39 licensed drivers of that age.

Since 1983, most states have phased in new laws raising the minimum age for buying or selling alcohol to 21.

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Arrest rates for DWI for the ages 18 to 20 have declined by 14 percent since then, more than twice the rate of decrease for those aged 21 to 24.

Another portion of the study found that half the jail inmates convicted of drunken driving had consumed the equivalent of at least 12 bottles of beer or eight mixed drinks before their arrests.

Almost half of the people jailed on drunken-driving charges or serving a sentence for driving under the influence had been sentenced for the same offense previously.

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