In a concentrated effort to get people driving under the influence of drugs and or alcohol off the highways, the California Highway Patrol conducted a DUI/Driver License Checkpoint Friday, June 27, on Highway 41 in Coarsegold. Officers stopped 693 vehicles out of the 775 vehicles that passed through the 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. checkpoint supervised by Sgt. Jeff O’Brien.
The checkpoint was set up in the southbound lane of Highway 41 near Pony Express Lane.
“We are screening vehicles while keeping the traffic moving the best we can,” O’Brien said. “When traffic is heavy, we alternate vehicles (check three and skip three), and when the traffic slows down, we check everyone.”
The driver’s ability to speak without slurring their words was quickly established with a couple routine questions by officers, and drivers were asked to show their driver’s license.
Officers performed 11 field sobriety tests, with a couple drivers asked to blow into a Preliminary Alcohol Screening Device to help determine if the driver was intoxicated. All 11 drivers were released after it was determined they were not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The highest blood-alcohol level reading of the night was .06%. In California, a driver with a blood alcohol level of .08% is automatically considered to be impaired, although a person can be considered driving under the influence with a .07 at the judgment of the officer.
Officers issued citations to four drivers who were driving with a suspended license, and one driver who did not have a license. Three of the vehicles were impounded.
According to O’Brien, the CHP historically has not always included the inspection of driver licenses at sobriety checkpoints. However, the Department of Motor Vehicles conducted research that indicated 33% of drivers with suspended or revoked licenses have a criminal record and are far more likely than licensed drivers to be involved in traffic collisions with fatalities and injuries.
“As such, we now include the inspection of driver licenses at sobriety checkpoints to ensure the highest level of traffic safety,” O’Brien said.
Three additional citations were issued — two for drivers having no proof of auto insurance, and one for expired vehicle registration.
The only arrest of the night was for a driver who had a misdemeanor warrant out of Southern California. The person was cited and released.
Although some drivers complain about the short delay, O’Brien said many people thank the officers for their efforts to get impaired drivers off the highway.
In addition to O’Brien, additional officers from the Oakhurst area office who participated in the operation were Mike Kenny, Paul Varner, Steve Tomazin, Randy Matyshock, Jeremy Buttgereit, and Chris Lutz.
“Our goal is to ensure the safety of motorists by occasionally targeting specific areas with checkpoints designed to augment patrol operations,” O’Brien said. “The deterrent effect of these checkpoints has been proven to reduce the number of persons killed and injured in alcohol or drug involved crashes. Checkpoints are an effective way to achieve our goal and send a clear message that if a person decides to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, there is a good chance they will be caught.”
Drivers caught driving impaired can expect jail, license suspension, and insurance increases, as well as fines, fees, DUI classes, and other expenses that can exceed $10,000.
In 2011, nearly 10,000 people were killed nationally in motor vehicle traffic crashes that involved at least one driver or motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher. In California, this deadly crime led to 774 deaths because someone failed to designate a sober driver.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), checkpoints have provided the most effective documented results of any of the DUI enforcement strategies, while also yielding considerable cost of savings of $6 for every $1 spent. Based on collision statistics and frequency of DUI arrests, DUI checkpoints are placed in locations that have the greatest opportunity for achieving drunk and drugged driving deterrence. Locations are chosen with safety considerations for the officers and the public.
“DUI checkpoints have been an essential part of the phenomenal reduction in DUI deaths that we witnessed since 2006 in California,” said Christopher J. Murphy, Director of the Office of Traffic Safety.
Funding for the checkpoint is provided to California Highway Patrol by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to continue to work together to bring an end to these tragedies.
If you see anyone who appears to be drinking under the influence of alcohol of drugs, call 911.