During those cherished Saturdays in the Grove, the city of Oxford takes in significantly more people than it does on the average non-game weekend. Increased alcohol consumption coupled with the large influx of visitors leaves the Oxford Police Department on its toes, looking for misconduct — especially drunk driving.
Maj. Sheridan Maiden of OPD said the drastic influx of people during game day weekends could lead to an increase in DUI arrests.
“(The) population swells, so the chance of occurrence greatly increases,” Maiden said.
He was hesitant to call it an issue, however. If DUIs are, in fact, more frequent during football weekends, he believes it’s mostly due to the increased population.
Robert Banks, the DUI training director for OPD, shared a different sentiment. He said widespread alcohol consumption has a role in the slight DUI increase.
“The increased alcohol consumption is without a doubt the main reason for the large number of DUI arrests that we normally make on game weekends,” Banks said. “However, if it were not so busy with other calls and details, we would likely arrest many more.”
Over the past five years, OPD has made around 600 arrests for DUIs each year. In 2012, the state of Mississippi recorded significantly more drunk driving deaths than the national average. As a country in 2015, 10,265 people were killed in alcohol-related car accidents, accounting for roughly 29 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. Banks said police forces across the country certainly do not catch every drunk driver.
“If you fish in a pond with 1,000 fish, you are more likely to catch one than if you fish in the same pond with only 100 fish,” Banks said. “It is a national statistic that police only arrest 1.1 percent of all DUI drivers at any given time in this country because there is simply too many other things to deal with.”
The numbers are somewhat consistent with this narrative. According to data provided by OPD, home football weekends this semester average 11 arrests for DUIs compared to an average of 10 for all weekends this semester. Non-game weekends alone average 9.33 arrests, including an average of 8 when the Rebels are on the road.
Despite the slight edge in DUI arrests during football weekends, it’s not grounds to make sweeping claims about tailgating and DUIs.
The largest case of DUIs for a weekend this year occurred during the weekend of Sept. 1-3, when the University of South Alabama was in Oxford for Ole Miss’ season opener — 16 arrests. The two next largest cases of DUI arrests this semester came during the weekend before classes and first weekend after classes commenced — 13 arrests. However, both home games when the Rebels hosted UT Martin and Vanderbilt resulted in DUI arrests below the semester average, with 7 and 9, respectively.
“I think most weekends there’s something going on in Oxford during the school year, whether it’s Greek parties or football games. So I wouldn’t expect a huge change in DUIs from Grove weekends,” James Rainey, a senior from New Jersey, said.
Banks touted OPD’s effort to strengthen awareness about drunk driving.
“Most police agencies only have a couple of officers that are skillfully trained in DUI detection and testing procedures, but Oxford makes it a point to train all of its officers,” Banks said.
Emily Vicente, a senior education major who attended LSU and Florida State before settling in at Ole Miss, said, “I think alcohol consumption is pretty common on campuses with large football programs. That being said, I’m not too sure whether tailgating induces more DUIs.”
While football weekends alone may or may not be the cause for excess concern about DUIs, they still remain a major issue in a college town where a large number of the student population owns vehicles.
When asked whether he thinks DUI cases during Grove weekends are a problem, Maiden said, “DUIs are a problem, period.”