Are “Anti-DUI” Campaigns Really Preventing Drunk Driving?

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on October 28th, 2015

From guest blogger Matt Hartmann:


In many California counties, law enforcement agencies are rolling out “Anti-DUI,” campaigns funded by state grants. One of these grants, according to the recent newspaper article, “Vacaville Police Will Lead DUI Campaign,” amounts to $220,000, giving law enforcement agencies the increased funds to rev-up DUI patrolling and increase checkpoints. According to the Vacaville Police Department, these campaigns will primarily roll-out around holidays, like Halloween, New Year’s Eve and Cinco de Mayo.

Attempting to prevent DUIs, these “campaigns,” underhandedly reward officers for arresting drivers with DUI charges. By enacting programs that encourage officers to arrest more people, agencies reinforce the idea that more arrests lead to safer roads, which often proves untrue.

Rewarding officers for arrests, these county agencies are encouraging aggressive policing against drivers that often doesn’t result in convictions. Through doing so, officer’s actions are more likely to go against your legal rights, including stopping without probable cause, not following guidelines for checkpoints, and/ or improperly administering breath tests.

In a press statement released by Vacaville Lt. Mark Donaldson, he claims, “If you don’t drink or use drugs, you will avoid getting arrested by any of the 10 participating law enforcement agencies in this county.”

In reality, we know this statement doesn’t usually hold true. Many DUI arrests never result in convictions, as previously discussed on this blog.

If the aim really is to make roads safer, doesn’t it make sense to invest that money in increased education and prevention campaigns, rather than in unnecessarily aggressive policing?  Instead of aiming to prevent driving under the influence before it happens, these policies only serve to punish those already intoxicated, and they will likely result in numerous unsubstantiated arrests that wind up costing drivers.

Another recent newspaper article entitled “DWI Arrests are through the roof, but road aren’t getting much safer” showed that an increase in arrests often doesn’t result in increased road safety. Even with arrests doubling, rates of crashes involving drivers under the influence remained stable. In turn, since the launch of the Ad Council’s “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” campaign, 68% of Americans reported trying to prevent someone from driving drunk – actions that actually increase safety.

With the statistics showing that educational campaigns do more to prevent DUI/DWI than aggressive policing, why do states continue to fund the latter and not the former?

These campaigns serve as a warning to be even more cautious around upcoming holidays than normal.

 

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