The California Office of Traffic Safety awarded a $450,000 grant to Los Angeles County for their DUI taskforce, which will implement more DUI checkpoints meant to deter drunk driving. Bell Gardens, Montebello, Monterey Park and Vernon are some of the cities that will benefit from this grant.
With nearly 800 deaths in California caused by alcohol-related collisions, according to the Office of Traffic Safety, the grant will fund staffing for the DUI/Driver License checkpoints, which according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have been the most effective DUI enforcement strategy.
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The Glendora Police Department will be administering the grant to the rest of the county.
“[Checkpoints] reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by drunk drivers,” Wendy Breyer, Community Service Officer at the Glendora Police Department, told EGP. “Through these grants we are able to lower these numbers.”
The yearlong grant will provide sweeps, which began during the Halloween weekend, through September 2013. According to Brewer, this is the eighth-year that the county has received the grant.
Lt. Larry Jackson of the Montebello Police Department told EGP that the city has received approval for the grant but is waiting on paperwork needed to start using the funds for the program.
Jackson said the grant would help deter driving under the influence in the city of Montebello, which has not conducted a DUI checkpoint for some time.
“The city has had some DUI traffic related incidents,” Jackson said. “[Checkpoints] have been successful in lowering DUI traffic and has historically lowered fatalities.”
Bell Gardens Police Capt. Jeff Travis told EGP that the last DUI checkpoint conducted by the city was in July. Funds from this grant will help the city conduct future checkpoint operations, he said.
“This grant gives us funds to pay for overtime,” Bell Gardens Police Capt. Jeff Travis told EGP. “It pays for the personnel cost.”
The DUI taskforce named “Avoid the 100,” is meant to send a message to drivers that if they don’t drink or use drugs and drive, then they will not risk getting arrested by the 100 participating law enforcement agencies in the county.
Drivers stopped for not having a valid drivers license may not automatically have their car impounded as some residents think.
Lt. Jackson told EGP that the law has changed and police officers are more reasonable and don’t necessarily impound a car. In Bell Gardens, officers are instructed to allow the unlicensed driver to call someone with a license to pick up the car to avoid it being impounded.
Capt. Travis told EGP that people with a suspended license who knowingly continue to drive will get their car impounded, but someone who has never had a license is provided with a safe area to leave their car and given 30 minutes to get someone with a license to pick it up before it is impounded.
“Since a large percentage of residents may be undocumented, we try to be fair and give them a reasonable time,” Travis said.
More importantly, says Travis, the checkpoints will create public awareness.
“Its not necessarily an enforcement tool, its more of a public awareness tool,” Travis said.
“People know we are out there and people see its something we are focused on.”
The other agencies participating in the DUI taskforce include LAPD, the California Highway Patrol in Los Angeles County and the LA’s Sheriff’s Department.