KUSA - A new project is underway that’s aimed at gathering information about how drunken driving cases actually play out in courtrooms, looking at the work of law officers and prosecutors – and the decisions made by judges.

The court monitoring project, organized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Colorado Department of Transportation, is beginning in two judicial districts covering Denver, El Paso and Teller counties.

“Fatalities are going up on our roadways, and we know we need to do more to stop drunk and drugged driving here,” said Fran Lanzer, executive director of the Colorado state office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

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In 2015, the year Colorado legislators passed a law making a fourth DUI a felony, 151 people died in drunken driving crashes in the state, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That number climbed to 161 in 2016 and 177 in 2017 – and the preliminary number for 2018 is 219, although it’s likely that number will be lowered once the blood-alcohol levels of all the involved drivers is obtained.

A four-day 9Wants to Know series examined the number of people charged with felony DUI since the law took effect – and told the stories of families who have been shattered by drunken driving crashes.

The new project will begin with misdemeanor DUI cases but the plan is to eventually also look at cases charged under the new felony law. Lanzer said the aim is simple: “To figure out how are cases being handled and are there gaps that we can bring additional resources to help address those issues?”

He said the group is seeking volunteers to attend court hearings and record what happens as cases are adjudicated.

“We want to know, how does law enforcement testify to the facts of the case?” Lanzer said. “How do prosecutors handle the case? How does a judge handle a case? We want to look at all of those issues, and then to provide feedback to law enforcement, prosecutors and judges to hopefully improve the adjudication of these cases.”

Lanzer said the data that’s gathered will eventually be shared with those in the system.

“Big-picture-wise, we want to make our roads safer,” he said. “And we want to make sure that if someone’s guilty of DUI that they’re getting to the appropriate counter measures, whatever they may be.”

To volunteer

If you are interested in volunteering to help with MADD’s court monitoring project, you can e-mail co.state@madd.org.

To get help

MADD provides services to victims of drunk and drugged drivers at no cost to them. For more information, call 1-877-MADD-HELP.