Some recent sobriety checkpoints in Orange County netted no or very few DUI arrests despite thousands of cars passing through them. Interpret that as you will--they're working or they're unnecessary--not that it matters what you think as more stops are coming, starting tonight in Santa Ana and Garden Grove.
Other strategies aimed at countering impaired or distracted motoring continue through the end of the month.
The Santa Ana operation runs from 8 tonight through 2 a.m. Saturday in the area of 300 N. Main Street. The Garden Grove checkpoint runs from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. at an undisclosed location. Both rely on grants from the California Office of Traffic Safety (COTS), through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
However, the effectiveness of checkpoints has been challenged. Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer recently characterized drunken driving as an epidemic here despite an increased number of such enforcements. He based that on DUI-related arrests, accidents and deaths locally despite checkpoints.
There were no DUI arrests made during Newport Beach's March 22-23 checkpoint despite police reporting 1,513 vehicles passed through. A March 16 Irvine checkpoint handled 1,007 vehicles, one of which produced a driver arrested for suspected DUI. Costa Mesa did a little better on March 29: three DUI-related arrests from 337 vehicles that came through, according to cops.
State, national and local authorities point to data showing $6 is saved for every $1 spent to conduct a checkpoint. The main point, they add, is to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving.
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It's a message that will be taken to a younger audience Monday and Tuesday, as COTS, the Newport Beach Police and Fire departments, the California Highway Patrol, Hoag Hospital, G&W Towing, Knott's Berry Farm and the Newport Beach Police Association host a mock DUI traffic collision on the campus of Newport Harbor High School.
Known as "Every 15 Minutes," the title referring to how often DUI fatalities occur in this country, the annual program also relies on funding from COTS and the NHTSA. Besides the simulated crash, which uses student actors, letters from 20 classmates to friends and family about a fatal DUI traffic collision will be read at an assembly in the school gym Tuesday.
For a completely different driving danger, the Orange County Sheriff's Department and various Orange County police agencies are conducting special patrols all month aimed at warning and/or citing distracted drivers. As in distracted by something other than booze.