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2015 stats show 19% drop in Citrus Heights DUI crashes, but fatalities rise

Citrus heights police, raleys, crash.
File photo, Citrus Heights police arrested a driver on felony DUI charges after a head-on collision behind Raley’s on Aug. 18 sent several people to the hospital. // CH Sentinel

Updated Jan. 31, 12:05 a.m.–
In statistics released last week, police said there was a significant drop in overall DUI-related collisions in Citrus Heights during 2015, although fatal collisions rose during the same period.

According to Sgt. Jason Baldwin, 2015 saw a total of 73 DUI-related collisions, down from 90 in 2014 — with DUI arrests also dropping from 385 in 2014 down to 340 last year. He said traffic-related fatalities rose to six in 2015, up from none in 2014.

The sergeant said he believes the drop in both DUI arrests and collisions is a good indication that enforcement and education helped reduce the number of intoxicated drivers on the road, but said the rise in fatal collisions “is a clear indicator of more work to be done.”

Police previously confirmed alcohol was involved on the part of the driver in at least three of the fatal collisions, and two involved alcohol on the part of pedestrians who were hit and killed.

In a press release last November, police cited the “particularly alarming” rise in roadway fatalities on Citrus Heights streets and said a new $236,190 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety would be used to help fund local efforts aimed at reducing traffic-related deaths and injuries.

[From November: CHPD seeks to reduce fatalities with $236k traffic safety grant]

Police said specific efforts funded by the grant include motorcycle safety and distracted driving enforcement, seat belt and child safety seat enforcement, and DUI checkpoints. The Department said anti-DUI efforts would also include “stakeout operations” to monitor the “worst-of-the-worst” repeat DUI offenders, and roving “saturation patrols” to specifically search for DUI drivers.

Sgt. Baldwin said the overall drop in DUI-related collisions could be the result of several factors — highlighting that the Citrus Heights Police Department did “a lot of public education” regarding drunk and drugged driving last year.

Baldwin said the Department launched a “Know thy Limits” campaign in 2015, involving groups of officers walking through local bars offering to conduct voluntary alcohol screening tests. On numerous occasions, he said individuals who thought they would be okay to drive ended up testing well-over the legal blood-alcohol limit of .08 percent.

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Asked whether the rise in ride-sharing services like Uber have helped reduce drunk driving, Sgt. Baldwin said anything that can take a drunk driver off the road is a “great thing,” but credited a focus on enforcement, education, and roadway engineering efforts as reasons for the drop in DUI collisions in the city.

A 2006 study paid for by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which provides funding for DUI checkpoints around the nation, reported that alcohol-related crashes dropped significantly in various jurisdictions, after increased, high-publicity DUI campaigns were conducted.

[Document: NHTSA_DUI_Case_Studies_2006]

An example included in the study’s 108-page report found overall alcohol-related crashes in Fresno went from 444 in 2002 down to 333 in 2003, after Fresno Police “more than doubled” special enforcement activity, coupled with increased publicity.

[From last year: Head-on collision behind Citrus Heights Raley’s ends in DUI arrest]

Sgt. Baldwin said CHPD “is committed to making the streets safer,” and will continue its educational and enforcement efforts. According to the City’s latest six-month strategic plan, police also plan to continue regular DUI enforcement operations within Citrus Heights, including roving DUI saturation patrols and checkpoints.

Note: An original version of this story reported police stating there were five roadway fatalities in 2015, but after a Sentinel request for clarification, Sgt. Baldwin later confirmed on Jan. 28 that a total of six roadway fatalities had occurred. He said the initial number released had not properly calculated the most recent fatality from November, due to a report not being yet complete.

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