On Duty with the CHP: Is that a DUI checkpoint?

CHP officer Traci Gallian explains the reasons to have DUI checkpoints.
CHP officer Traci Gallian explains the reasons to have DUI checkpoints. Sierra Star file photo

Here’s a group text that’s familiar to many: “The cops are all over the place tonight, there are DUI checkpoints everywhere!”

It’s that time of year when we celebrate with our family and friends, but sometimes things don’t end up the way we planned. So, let’s take a minute and talk about DUI checkpoints and why we have them.

At DUI checkpoints, officers set up on a roadway and randomly stop vehicles to detect and apprehend intoxicated drivers. DUI checkpoints are staffed by officers trained in the detection of alcohol and/or drug-impaired drivers. DUI checkpoints serve three purposes; deterrence, removal of drunk drivers, and public education.

DUI checkpoints are usually set up during times when impaired driving is known to happen, such as holiday weekends. If an officer’s preliminary encounter with the driver leads him to believe the driver may be under the influence of alcohol, the officer will then conduct field sobriety tests.

Sobriety checkpoints are effective in combating drunk driving. In 2014, the California Highway Patrol conducted several checkpoints statewide, which resulted in 442 DUI arrests. The removal of these impaired drivers saves lives.

Please don’t make the choice to drink and drive! It is selfish! So many options are available to get you and your fellow motoring public home safely including designating a sober driver, or hiring a taxi, Lyft or Uber. A DUI can be avoided by simply having a plan.

If you do decide to drink and drive, please know that a drinking and driving conviction comes with a heavy price tag. The fine for a first-offense DUI along with associated costs can run to $15,000 or more. Some of the costs include, but are not limited to, posting bail which can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, tow truck fees, fines, court costs, and the increase in insurance rates. These are just examples of a few costs associated with a DUI. Don’t forget you will lose your driver’s license for one year. Have you thought about losing your license and how you will get to and from work?

Drowsy driving

Even sober drivers can be a danger, so let me take a moment to discuss drowsy driving. As we all stay up late bringing in the New Year, we need to consider the effects of being tired and driving. CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow recently said, “Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates each year drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 collisions. In California in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available in the CHP’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, drowsy driving led to 4,284 collisions.

Here are the warning signs of drowsy driving: yawning, blinking, rubbing your eyes frequently, difficulty remembering the past few miles driven, missing your exit, drifting from lane to lane, hitting the rumble strip, tailgating, and feeling irritable. If you experience any of these signs, pull off the road as soon as possible in a safe location and rest. Let’s make it a great holiday and bring in the New Year with a bang!

One last request: If there is a topic you would like for me to write about, please email me with the request, I would love to hear it. On behalf of all the men and women of the CHP, I would like to wish all of you a Happy and Safe New Year!

Officer Traci Gallian can be reached at tagallian@chp.ca.gov or on Facebook.