Last month, a DUI (driving under the influence) operation was set-up in Visalia, and it led to a grand total of four DUI arrests. Although the checkpoint was labeled as a DUI operation, there were also 32 traffic citations handed out during the Friday night, Saturday morning operation.
In total, 63 vehicles were pulled over during the night. Of the total traffic citations, five tickets were issued to drivers who were operating their vehicles without a license plate and another three tickets were given to drivers who were unlawfully driving on a suspended license.
This kind of checkpoint is nothing new for the city of Visalia or the surrounding areas. Communities throughout California hold DUI checkpoints during the year in order to help curb drunk driving related offenses, or so they say. It is pretty clear by looking at the statistics and the history of DUI checkpoints in Fresno, Visalia, and the surrounding areas, that these checkpoints garner a lot more traffic citations than alcohol-related offenses.
In reality, no matter how few DUI arrests a DUI operation will fetch, law enforcement in the area will still consider it to be a “success” and say that even one arrest will justify the checkpoint. While it is important to keep our roads safe, it is unclear as to whether these DUI operations are the best method for doing so.
Keep in mind that these operations and checkpoints cost thousands and thousands of dollars every time one is performed. Each time I write a blog about the latest DUI checkpoint, I generally ask if this is the best way to spend the money that has been allocated to the local law enforcement.
Funding for this specific program came from a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA is known nationally as an organization that was first established in 1970 by the Highway Safety Act of 1970. It is a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation and according to its website, was created in order to “carry out safety programs.”
It holds itself responsible for reducing deaths, injuries as well as financial loss which result from motor vehicle crashes. The NHTSA does this by “setting and enforcing safety performance standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, and through grants to state and local governments to enable them to conduct effective local highway safety programs.”
While the cause is noble, it seems that this funding could be put towards something besides the same old DUI checkpoints. Local residents are expected to be notified about upcoming DUI checkpoints and many feel that people just avoid that area, rather than change their thinking or their behavior. Do these checkpoints truly make a difference, or are they just an easy way for officers to arrest some drivers for DUI, legally or not, and make some additional money for the city from traffic tickets that get issued at the same time?
Do you think DUI checkpoints are a good use of city funds? Is there a different option available that would make a bigger impact?