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Traffic enforcement #3 priority
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In previous columns during the past several months, I described the three enforcement priorities of the Ceres Police Department. The first two, which I have written about in previous editions of the Ceres Courier, are: 1) Parolees and Drugs; and, 2) Gangs.

The third is Traffic/DUI Enforcement.

Traffic enforcement is often seen as something less important than "arresting criminals," because the general motoring public is not comprised of people wishing to do others harm or to steal their property. But the reason this kind of enforcement is important is that speeding motorists, those who tailgate or run stop signs and traffic lights, and particularly people who drive while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, kill, maim and injure far more often than the common criminals.

It is not uncommon for motorists who have been stopped for traffic violations to ask the officers if they do not "have anything better to do?" I suppose it is not an entirely unreasonable question to ask, but when more thought is given to the issue of traffic enforcement, the reasons to do so become quite clear. In California, on average, there are some 1,300 traffic collisions every day. And every day, traffic collisions cause almost nine deaths, and 470 injuries. The economic impact on the people of this state is astronomical. While insurance covers a portion of these costs, car insurance is not free, and few people involved in collisions are made entirely "whole."

In short, there are excellent reasons to enforce traffic laws, with DUI enforcement being a very high priority. There is a lot of public awareness about the dangers of driving while intoxicated, but the practice remains common. California has almost 3,500 DUI-related traffic deaths every year, while thousands more are injured by DUI drivers.

In my view, there should be even more traffic enforcement throughout the state, but there are not enough police officers to provide the amount of enforcement necessary to bring about real change in people's driving practices. Since 1969, the number of uniformed California Highway Patrol personnel has grown by 25.6 percent. In the same 37 years, the number of miles driven by the motoring public in this state has increased by 193 percent. Traffic enforcement capabilities have been far outpaced by California's growth.

Traffic and DUI enforcement is a justifiably high priority for the safety of all motorists and pedestrians. And not only is it important for saving lives and protecting property, traffic problems have also become a "quality of life" issue owing to noise and the perception of danger in our neighborhoods. In Ceres, we have a zero tolerance attitude towards DUI drivers and general traffic enforcement. Public awareness and self-imposed safe driving practices are a lot more effective than any kind of police enforcement efforts.