MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The deaths of four women on Christmas Eve at the hands of an accused drunk driver was a deadly reminder of how dangerous drinking and driving can be, and the Shelby County DA's office is doing all it can to keep the roads safe.
Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich says her office is serious when it comes to prosecuting drunk drivers. That seriousness seems to be paying off.
"Do not get behind the wheel of a car if you've been drinking," she warned. "One life lost on the road is too much for this community… Don't take that chance."
In 2010 the Memphis Police Department and Shelby County Sheriff's Office arrested over 2,600 people for driving under the influence. So far this year there's been a little over 2,200 DUI arrests.
"Hopefully the DUI arrests are going down because the message is getting out to the community," Weirich told abc24.com. "Public awareness is up and people understand the seriousness of getting behind the wheel of a car if they've had too much to drink."
Weirich said something else that factors into the decline, the work of the DA's office DUI Prosecution Unit.
Weirich explained, "It's prosecutors and support staff who do nothing but handle DUI cases; they are specialized in their knowledge and they have a lot of extra training."
Shelby County's lead prosecutor also credits a new technological device in helping with the downturn in dui arrests, called SCRAM.
Paul Ross is the CEO of The Justice Network. He said the SCRAM ankle bracelet helps people change their drinking habits.
"The scram device fits on an offender's ankle and it monitors for alcohol use," he said. In turn, Ross added, "It's saving lives, both offender's lives and the rest of us driving around with them."
The Shelby County Sheriff's Office reports the number of alcohol or drug related car accident fatalities deputies responded to is up from six in 2010 to eight fatalities as of December 28, 2011.