OTS works to curb DUI recidivism in local counties

(Rigo Moran)

Grant funds from the California Office of Traffic Safety flow to Fresno, Tulare County probation departments to aid in intensive DUI supervision programs

FRESNO, TULARE COUNTIES – Probation departments in both Fresno and Tulare County have received one-year grants to fund supervision programs for individuals who have been convicted for offenses of Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) awarded $332,000 to Fresno County and $138,590 to Tulare County with funds made available by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), according to Fresno and Tulare County press releases from Oct. 17 and Oct. 18, respectively. The grants are specifically for the intensive monitoring of high-risk and repeat DUI offenders.

“The intensive supervision programs are critical to reducing the devastating consequences of DUI offenses,” Barbara Rooney, OTS director, said in a press release. “Prevention is an effective, proactive tool to address the often tragic consequences of impaired driving.”

According to the most recent OTS data from 2020, there were 593 alcohol-involved crashes in Fresno County that year that resulted in fatality or injury, and 376 in Tulare County.

Even further, OTS gives counties and cities in the state crash ratings to allow local jurisdictions to compare how safety in their area compares to other areas; the higher the ranking, the more fatality and injury crashes there are. Fresno County’s alcohol-involved crashes in 2020 were ranked 38th out of 58 and Tulare County’s were ranked 17th out of 58.

The ratings are determined by a weighted formula that takes into account many variables, including total population and vehicle miles traveled across a county. This is why Tulare County’s ranking was higher, or worse, than Fresno County’s, even though the number of crashes in Fresno County was higher.

However, in effort to combat this circumstance from happening all together, OTS provides local public entities with grant opportunities each year to fund a variety of different programs that address roadway, pedestrian and bicycle safety, distracted driving, motorcycle safety and more. All grant programs are awarded in October and run through September of the following year.

According to the Tulare County Probation Department, they have been able to employ a deputy probation officer dedicated to a specialized DUI caseload for the last 14 years thanks to this type of funding. The Fresno County Probation Department said the funding will go toward officer check-ins with their probationers to prevent them from re-offending and ensure they are following the terms of their probation.

Both departments will also use the grants to pay for alcohol testing, collaboration efforts with the courts and prosecutors, officer training in administering field sobriety tests and distributing DUI “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) alerts and for warrant operations that target probation violations and DUI suspects who failed to appear in court.

“With this funding, we can create safer roads and a healthier community by reducing the incidence of DUI offenses,” Kelly Vernon, Tulare County Probation Department chief probation officer, said in a press release.

These prevention programs have ties to a larger campaign called the “Go Safely Movement,” which aims to create a culture of traffic safety “where zero is the only acceptable number of traffic deaths and serious injuries,” according to the campaign website. 

Among other messaging, Go Safely encourages drivers to create a “game plan” when going out to events, especially those that may involve alcohol consumption. To prevent dangerous situations and driving under the influence, Go Safely recommends people plan ahead, share a ride and keep friends safe, too.

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