With the message “Drunk driving ruins the holidays,” Citrus Heights police announced they have joined a nationwide law enforcement effort seeking to reduce a rise in DUI-related fatalities during the Christmas season.
The local effort kicked off with a Dec. 16 DUI and drivers license checkpoint on Antelope Road, but police said the crackdown is also continuing through Jan. 1 with the deployment of “saturation patrols,” which are teams of extra patrol officers tasked exclusively with searching for and arresting drunk drivers.
“We want drivers to get the message [that] drunk driving is a choice you make, and when you make that choice, people get hurt or die,” said Lt. Jason Russo in a news release announcing the DUI enforcement effort. The statement advised driving sober, designating a driver, or utilizing options like a taxi or Uber.
A total of six fatalities have occurred on Citrus Heights roadways last year, with Lt. Russo previously confirming that alcohol was involved on the part of the driver in three of the collisions.
Answering a common question regarding why local police go out of their way to publicize DUI operations and checkpoints ahead of time, Officer Anthony Boehle previously told The Sentinel that awareness efforts are about preventing drunk drivers from getting on the road in the first place.
“DUI checkpoints are not intended to make arrests,” Officer Boehle said, explaining the more people know about heavy crackdowns on DUIs, the less likely they are to attempt driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. “It’s all about public awareness.”
In contrast to the checkpoints, Boehle said saturation patrols have a much higher potential for making arrests, because of a difference in goals. While checkpoints may arrest a small number of drunk drivers, Boehle said saturation units are deployed specifically to “hunt” for DUI drivers. In one night, he said a single patrol car can make more arrests than a checkpoint.
Police said funding for the holiday DUI crackdown comes from a California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) grant through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Earlier this year CHPD announced it had received a $145,000 OTS grant to help fund a year-long program of safety-related efforts, including DUI checkpoints and distracted driving enforcement.