by Richard Lieberman
Mothers Against Drunk Driving sponsored an officer appreciation event to present officers from the Tri-Counties area with awards for the most drunk driving arrests in their individual departments. The event drew Law Enforcement from Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Maria CHP and Port Hueneme, among others. A lunch sponsored by Dukes Griddle and Grill restaurant in Ventura was offered to the gathered representatives. It was held on Thursday, August 26, at the Museum of Ventura County in Downtown Ventura.
Opening remarks at the event were given by Georgina Avilez, Program Manager for MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). She thanked the officers for their diligence and commitment to get impaired drivers off the road. She emphasized MADD’s commitment to its mission “A nation without drunk and drugged driving.” She also talked about MADD’s mission “to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking.”
Following opening remarks by Avilez, Staci Brown, Program Specialist of MADD Tri-Counties, remarked to the gathered attendees, “I want to thank all of the law enforcement attendees for coming to receive awards for the most DUI arrests”. She added “Congratulations and good work to all the award recipients.” Brown also remarked to the attendees “We appreciate all that you do to keep our streets safe.” Brown went on to offer a special thanks to the Museum of Ventura County for hosting the event.
Over forty-five law enforcement officers representing eighteen departments were honored at the event. Each recipient received a certificate and had their photos taken with Staci Brown of MADD.
Ventura Police Chief Darin Schindler also attended the event along with three members of the Ventura Police Department. “I think the MADD event is great, they do this every year; they recognize the public safety officials that are out there taking drunk drivers off the roadway whether it be alcohol impairment, drug impairment and or some other impairment.” Stated Chief Schindler.
“No one knows how many lives are saved by taking these impaired drivers off the road,” It’s great to recognize the officers who are doing this job,” he added. When asked about solutions and police enforcement approaches to solving the dilemma of impaired driving he offered several approaches that are being undertaken now to help get some of these drivers off the road. Drunk driving checkpoints are one approach regularly used by police. “It’s a deterrent in the scope of being proactive about it,”. Another approach Ventura police utilize is a partnership between police and the OTS (California Office of Traffic Safety). They supply police with equipment and additional funding. Another approach is police visiting bars and restaurants on weekend nights and approaching people as they are leaving and asking “how much they have had to drink” “We ask them if they are OK to drive and if they volunteer, we have them blow into a portable breathalyzer to show them their current blood alcohol level,” added Schindler.
Police agencies and MADD agree that one effective solution to the impaired driving epidemic is Sobriety Checkpoints. Checkpoints have reduced fatalities by 20 percent. Checkpoints are mandated to be publicized in advance and signs are posted at the approach to the checkpoints. Another law enforcement approach MADD supports is “Saturation Saturday” which designates the Saturday before Labor Day weekend a day to team up with law enforcement agencies nationwide to amplify the message that if you choose to drive impaired, you will get caught. Yet another method MADD supports comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over”. Law enforcement departments have picked dangerous parts of the year, and keep a special eye out for drunk drivers on those days, letting potential impaired drivers know that law enforcement is out there looking for and pulling over impaired drivers.