Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Roseville (Calif.) DUI Crackdown

The city I live in is not the City of Angels, but it ain't a bad town. The streets are generally safe,drug use is about the same as any other city in America and crime isn't much of an issue - mainly idiots being idiots. That said the city of Roseville has seen an increase in the number of alcohol related accidents over the past few years, even as general traffic incidents have declined. I for one don't exactly buy into the numbers they tout, seems like any time there's a fender bender and the driver has had a drink in the past few hours it become 'alcohol related' - maybe I'm just seeing things funny though.

Regardless, Roseville has built up a pretty good case for needing to crack down on drunk driving... well, driving by those with a BAC of 0.08% or more anyway. Their grand idea? DUI Checkpoints, and lots of them. For some time now the local news outlets get press releases from the Roseville Police Dept. announcing a checkpoint coming up - so be careful. Most recently (Saturday) the RPD teamed up with law enforcement officials from FOUR other agencies (other local Police Dept. and County Sheriff's Office) to do one of these high profile stops. The results?

Cars Stopped: 2,500
DUI Arrests: 11

Forgive my ignorance for a few moments, but this seems absolutely ridiculous! I don't know exactly how many law enforcement officers were involved in this spectacle, but I suspect it was too many. Is this what we've come to expect from our law enforcement, a group of uniformed officers who set up camp and wait for the bad guys to come to them?

Oh, if you've not seen a DUI Checkpoint before, or been through one, they're pretty hard to miss and can often be seen many many blocks before you are confronted by a cop. Lights, more lights, with a bit of light added to make it safe. It's no wonder the arrest count was low.

Maybe the cops just don't know. As someone who goes to many bars around the country I've figured out that if there's heavy law enforcement in an area near the bar in question, the early-out folks are very quick to text a buddy in the bar pointing out just where a checkpoint is located. Within a few minutes, word gets to the barkeep and most patrons. It may sound bad for the dry folks, but it's just the way it works.

Don't get me wrong, I don't like drunken fools behind a wheel of a big metal moving object, but I also don't think the folks nabbed at checkpoints are the people I'm most worried about. No, instead I worry about the people who can't drive straight and have troubles remembering where that damned brake pedal is. Ironically, I've seen quite a few of these in my city with nary a cop to see it. These people may be sopped in alcohol, but they know it. They see cars stopping ahead, they get off the road... at least that road.

So, what to do? We can't encourage cops to come into bars and pull folks out who've been enjoying the juke box and beers all night - although they're trying to. We can't throw out our liberties to catch people that may or may not need to be caught (I do have issue with the 0.08 BAC limit, by the way) - what about the 1489 sober drivers this weekend? There simply isn't a cut and dry fix for the solution, but I do think we need to have a national conversation about this - along with the drinking age - and figure something out.

Quick story. I had a boss once from Norway. Apparently there the rules are rigid and the penalties swift. That said, there's also a touch of common sense. As it was told to me if you blow over the country's quite low BAC limit, but maybe just by a bit, you're allowed to sit for 30 minutes and blow again. If you're still over that limit, then you're in trouble - the thought being if you can be under 30 minutes later you weren't all that drunk to begin with. Now what if we kept the nation's .08 limit and instituted such a ruling? After all, my breathalyzer (yes, I own and use one) tells me in the instructions that I need to stop drinking 20 minutes before using to get an accurate test.

I don't want to seem to be disrespecting police, I honestly admire the work they do and am happy someone is there in those rare instances I need them. If anything I would like to see them allowed to police my city, not stand guard on a busy corner to administer a breath test for motorists that just want to get home.