Statistics indicate that drinking and driving is one of the most prevalent offenses throughout America. With nearly 300,000 drunk driving incidents occurring across the country every single day, you'd think that putting an end to driving under the influence would be the number one priority for law enforcement. But it's not – and why is this the case?
Police officers are well aware that drunk drivers kill thousands of people on the road each year. They know that DUI offenses regularly go unpunished. They're also mindful that if the problem isn't taken care of, it will only persist and perhaps even become worse. Unfortunately, all of this awareness isn't going to fix the problem. Doing something about it takes both resources and time – two things many police stations don't seem to have readily available, according to a recent article from TIME Magazine.
One traffic safety enforcement expert at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation noted that there are other issues pulling police officers' attention away. Because of this, resources are spread much thinner than they were in years past and drunk driving is one area that often gets overlooked.
What can law enforcement do to fix the problem?
One way that police officers can combat drinking and driving is by implementing sobriety checkpoints, a solution that has proven to be very effective. Even these checkpoints, however, present a catch 22.
To put it plainly, law enforcement does not like to use sobriety checkpoints. Sobriety checkpoints are expensive and require a lot of manpower. One lieutenant of a police department said that while they do receive grant money to help in this area, it is often only enough to set up just one checkpoint during the holiday season. Unfortunately, one checkpoint won't fix the problem.
Another sergeant who helps to regularly organize checkpoints throughout Los Angeles told TIME that doing so promotes police awareness. People are less likely to drink and drive if they know they'll be stopped.
Do checkpoints allow offenders to get away?
Checkpoints are only as effective as their weakest link, and the fact that drivers are allowed to turn away before reaching the checkpoint merely compounds the problem. Checkpoints must give cars an "escape route." Those drivers that turn around before the checkpoint aren't always pursued by the police, so they get off without any kind of punishment.
But it's not all the fault of police officers; prosecutors may be somewhat to blame, too. One prosecutor pointed out that drunk driving cases are some of the most complicated cases to prosecute and, again, resources are often in short supply.
Testing equipment costs money, prosecutors need to be trained, and there has to be enough prosecutors available to take on these cases. Sometimes, it's just not plausible for the state to handle all DUI cases.
It should be noted that drunk driving awareness is reaping positive benefits. As time goes on and people become more conscious of the consequences of drinking and driving, the occurrence of intoxicated driving is being reduced, if only minimally.
So while it may be 2015 and people understand the dangers of drinking and driving, the fact of the matter remains: DUI is still a major problem. Until law enforcement takes proactive steps to stop drunk drivers, the DUI will continue to be a problem in Washington and throughout the country.
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