Authorities Gear Up for Safe Holiday Driving
Holiday revelry and responsible driving can coexist. Authorities stress this message by beefing up their enforcement efforts to discourage drivers from from taking the wheel while impaired.
“DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols are more intense this time of year because crashes, DUIs and fatalities increase around major holidays,” said Chris Cochran, of the California Office of Traffic Safety, an office that provides grants for law enforcement to conduct checkpoints. “We want people to plan accordingly and arrange for safe travel if they are going to get intoxicated.”
Law enforcement employs a couple of methods to root out impaired drivers. A DUI checkpoint puts several officers in a specific place, requiring all motorists who drive through the area present their license. Officers look for obvious signs of impairment and confirm the validity of the driver’s license.
“We like the DUI checkpoints because they are a highly visual deterrent,” Cochran said. “We want people to see them and be aware of them.”
Saturation patrols are the other popular tactic. The patrols feature a number of patrol cars sweeping the city for the express purpose of finding drivers under the influence.
Agencies have broadened their mission in recent years to focus on levels of impairment besides alcohol. There are fewer DUI arrests and alcohol-related crashes than a decade ago, but that doesn’t mean drivers have sobered up, Cochran said.
“Now we talk more about it in terms of impaired driving. As alcohol-impaired driving has been going down for 10 or 15 years, we’re seeing an uptick in the use of drugs behind the wheel,” he said.
Not all states operate their DUI enforcement initiatives the same way, Cochran said. However, days on and around major holidays are a safe bet that more police will be on alert.
“These checkpoints and patrols happen all year long, but they are definitely more common around holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s,” Cochran said.
Cochran offered the following advice and background about impaired driving:
- Consider the cost. Between court costs, getting a vehicle out of impound and other administrative fees, the average cost of a DUI conviction is $10,000.
- Impairment comes in all forms. Drivers abusing prescription medicine, narcotics or other illicit substances are at-risk of a DUI arrest.
- Plan ahead. Designate a driver. Call a cab. Use a ridesharing service. Find a place to spend the night.