Visalia Police Department hopes to ‘STEP’ down DUI crashes

Visalia Police Dept. is awarded $270,000 Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) to increase DUI enforcement and education efforts

VISALIA – The number of cars on the road is steadily growing each year and so is the number of cars involved in alcohol related collisions.

At its Sept. 21 meeting, the Visalia City Council unanimously accepted a $270,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to help reduce the number of DUI related crashes in the city. Known as the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP), Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar said the grant will be used to increase the number of DUI enforcement efforts and raise overall general public awareness regarding the problems associated with drinking and driving.

“This grant will provide additional resources to aid the department in enhancing our enforcement and educational efforts to provide for safer roadways in areas where we have seen a steady increase in the number of drivers and vehicles within the city,” Salazar said.

Visalia issues about 400 DUI related citations each year and the number has been on the rise. VPD saw a 2.5% increase in the number of DUI citations from 2017 to 2018, the most recent year for which numbers are available. According to CHP, more than 1,400 people were killed and nearly 28,000 injured in alcohol involved collisions across the state in 2017, also the most recent numbers. While Tulare County’s population ranks 18th among California’s 58 counties it was 11th on the list for the most people killed in alcohol involved crashes and the number of fatal collisions caused by alcohol impaired drivers. Overall, the state saw a 4.2% increase in the number of people killed in collisions where the driver had been drinking. While numbers are not yet available for this year, experts expect a sharp increase in the number of DUI cases from previous years due to stressors such as loss of income, changes to the work environment, and an increase in depression and feelings of isolation.

The OTS grant provides participating agencies the overtime funds, equipment and resources necessary to operate complete DUI enforcement programs. Educational efforts including but are not limited to: DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols, distracted driver enforcement operations, motorcycle safety enforcement operations, pedestrian/bicycle enforcement operations and several traffic safety educational presentations are also included in the grant.

“In addition to the operational expenses, the grant will also allow the department to purchase a new DUI checkpoint trailer and all supplies,” Salazar said.

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