Monday, December 17, 2012

Driving Safely During the Holidays

By Joe Farrow, Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol

The holiday season is upon us which typically comes with travel to celebrate with family and friends. This is a joyous time of year, but too often what we in law enforcement see amid the fun and frivolity, is tragedy that occurs as the result of poor decisions made behind the wheel.
Alcohol was the primary collision factor in more than a dozen fatal collisions and in numerous injury crashes during the 2011 holiday period.

Last year during the Christmas holiday, 14 people lost their lives in motor vehicle collisions; another 25 during the New Year’s holiday. Sadly, more than half of those killed in the jurisdiction patrolled by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) were not wearing seatbelts. While seatbelts may have saved the lives of these vehicle occupants, alcohol was the primary collision factor in more than a dozen fatal collisions and in numerous injury crashes during the 2011 holiday period. In each of those cases, someone chose to get behind the wheel of an automobile after having too much to drink. Victim advocates know all too well the heartache and grief that follows in these cases, and we are thankful the Victim Compensation Program is there to help surviving victims and family members of those who are killed in these senseless collisions.

The CHP and law enforcement agencies across the state will be out in force again this holiday season to assist motorists and to prevent additional tragedies from occurring on our roadways. Each holiday season, law enforcement officers arrest hundreds of people who are driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. These motorists present a risk not only to themselves, but also to those sharing the roadway with them. The CHP, local law enforcement, the Office of Traffic Safety, and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration are joining together in the coming days to remind motorists to keep safety in mind during the holidays.

Motorists can help keep the roads safe by following these simple steps:
  • Always buckle up and secure children in a proper child safety seat.
  • Never drink and drive. If you are going to celebrate, designate a driver, use public transportation or make arrangements to stay where you are for the night. Remember, alcohol impairs people differently, and even a small amount of alcohol may be enough for a motorist’s driving to be affected.
  • Being sleepy or fatigued can have a similar effect on a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. If you are traveling long distances, plan ahead, and get plenty of rest before driving.
  • Obey the traffic rules and drive defensively.
  • If you see a suspected drunk driver on the road, call 911 to report the motorist to law enforcement.
  • Finally, eliminate distractions inside the vehicle.

I wish you all happy holidays and safe travels wherever your celebration may take you.

On March 1, 2008, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Joseph A. Farrow Commissioner of the CHP, and was later reappointed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011. Currently, Commissioner Farrow commands more than 7,800 uniformed 3,600 non-uniformed, 700 senior volunteers, and 200 Explorer personnel, and oversees a budget of $1.9 billion.
Commissioner Farrow is recognized for his innovative leadership approach in public administration, such as implementing the California Law Enforcement Challenge, effecting the CHP’s accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, and creating an Office of Inspector General to ensure accountability and transparency of the Department.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Drunk and Drugged Driving: An Ongoing Threat

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

We at CalVCP greatly admire the work of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Since their founding in 1980, MADD has made extraordinary progress in educating people about the tragic consequences of impaired driving. Unfortunately, too many still make the irresponsible, foolish choice to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Despite MADD’s incredible efforts over the past 30 years, nearly 1.5 million drivers were still arrested for DUI in 2010 across America.

From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
California has tried taking away impaired drivers’ licenses; 50-75% drive anyway. California has passed legislation requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers in four counties: Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare. Still, it is not enough. One out of every three traffic deaths still involves drunk driving, and, statistically, one in three people will be involved in a DUI crash in their lifetime.

As we commemorate National Drunk and Drugged Driving Month throughout December, and especially during this busy holiday season, CalVCP encourages everyone to reflect on what remains one of the deadliest crimes in the United States.
We see the faces of those families and loved ones left behind. We see the victims of impaired driving.

Last year, CalVCP processed nearly 850 claims from victims of impaired drivers. We provided nearly $750,000 in assistance for medical and mental health bills and burial costs. These aren’t just numbers; these are lives that are changed forever due to a crime that should never have happened. In our work with MADD, we see the faces of those families and loved ones left behind. We see the victims of impaired driving.

Law enforcement is crucial to keeping us safe; organizations like MADD and CalVCP are essential for taking care of the victims of crime; but it falls to you, the citizens of California, to stop impaired driving for good. Through awareness we can put an end to this devastating crime.

Here’s how you can save lives this holiday season:
  • Prior to drinking, designate a sober driver or plan to use a cab.
  • Assist an impaired person in securing a cab.
  • Never allow your friends to drive impaired. Take their keys away. It could mean their life or someone else’s.
  • Do not serve alcohol to an intoxicated person or a person under the age of 21.
  • Make arrangements for nearby accommodations, if needed.
  • Plan safe parties: provide non-alcoholic drink options to guests, assist in identifying designated drivers, and stop serving alcohol the last hour of the party.
  • Be prepared to get everyone home safely in case your plans or circumstances change.
Thank you for doing your part to keep the roads safe.

Portrait of Julie Nauman
Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.