By Patricia Cahill, Executive Director, IACP Foundation; Strategic Plan Administrator, IACP; and Advisor to the IACP National Chiefs Challenge Program
The summer holiday season is quickly approaching, and with that time of year comes the risk of thousands of injuries and deaths on our nation's highways. That is why from August 27 through September 12, 2004, more than 10,000 law enforcement agencies will join forces with traffic safety organizations across the nation to combat the violent crime of impaired driving, a crime that kills every 30 minutes in the United States. Partners in the 2004 National Crackdown Campaign include the following:
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- The National Safety Council (NSC)
- The Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign
- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
According to NHTSA's preliminary assessment of 2003 data in the Fatality Analysis and Reporting System (FARS), the number of people killed in alcohol-related crashes remained essentially unchanged from 2003, with 17,401 fatalities. This mobilization is an excellent time to reemphasize your agency's dedication to traffic safety as an integral part of your overall law enforcement mission and make a significant change in the statistics for your community.
Prevention and Highly
The real goal of any mobilization is prevention. Rather than arresting an impaired driver who has already threatened the safety of the motoring public, it is clear that preventing that driver from getting behind the wheel is a safer and more desirable objective. It follows then, that the key to deterring impaired driving is highly visible enforcement. Drivers must perceive that the risk of being caught is too high to chance being on the road at any level of impairment.
That message is very clearly and simply communicated through the NHTSA's You Drink & Drive. You Lose, campaign material. Visit the mobilization Web site at (www.stopimpaireddriving.org) or (www.nhtsa.dot.gov) and click the You Drink & Drive. You Lose logo to view planning information on the following topics:
- Checkpoints and saturation patrols
- Publicity and promotion
- Operational timelines
- Criminal justice training
- General resources
Special Focus on
Hardcore Drunk Drivers
While any impaired driver is a dangerous driver, the hardcore drunk driver poses a particularly difficult challenge to law enforcement. The hardcore drunk driver is someone who drives with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15 or more, does it repeatedly, and is highly resistant to changing his or her behavior despite previous arrest or sanctions. Independent studies caution us that hardcore drivers are responsible for over 58 percent of all alcohol-related deaths, even though on a typical weekend night they represent only 1 percent of all drivers on the road.
|Photograph courtesy University of Vermont Police Service|
Saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints, popular and proven tools in the fight against impaired driving, can be particularly effective in identifying and apprehending the hardcore drunk driver. The perception and likelihood of being stopped is higher during a saturation patrol, and the ability of an officer to more effectively assess the behavior of a hardcore drunk driver increases significantly during a sobriety checkpoint.
Seat Belts Still Save Lives
Although eliminating impaired driving is a commendable goal, the reality is that many drivers will still be on the road after drinking or using illegal drugs. As a result, there will be crashes where occupants, pedestrians, and drivers alike will be injured or killed. That is why strict enforcement of safety belt laws is still a successful tool in the fight against impaired driving injuries and deaths. Just as a comprehensive traffic safety program in your agency cannot be limited to traffic or motor units, safety belt enforcement can be implemented every day of the year.