I love this time of year. Not just because there’s all sorts of outside fun like ice skating, sledding and curling. Also because it’s that time of year when the local police pretend to care more about DUI. Yesterday the St. Charles Police notified the world that they’d be using the upcoming weeks to launch a “campaign” against impaired driving. According to the Kane County Chronicle:
“…St. Charles police officers will begin a traffic enforcement campaign that focuses on impaired drivers and seat belt violators, according to a St. Charles Police Department news release.”
Before I go any further, I’ve got to thank the Chronicle for directly telling us this was spoon-fed to them from a police news release. You know that the media’s reliance on police press releases is an “interest” of mine.
Don’t you read that statement, though, and wonder to yourself, “Hey! What about the rest of the year? You don’t focus on impaired drivers then?”
You should, right? If the St. Charles Police department is “focused” on impaired drivers during this short period, isn’t it reasonable to believe they aren’t the rest of the year? Seems reasonable to me. Although, I’m in DUI court all the time- I know that’s not true. It’s not like they arrest 100% of the drunk drivers they see this time of year, but would let 25% of them go if it were June or October.
What’s going on is that this is more police public relations. This little enforcement announcement is part of two of annoying programs that many departments like St. Charles buy into- the “drive sober or get pulled over” and “click it or ticket” programs:
The campaign, which is conducted in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Transportation’s “Click It or Ticket” and “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” programs, will last through Jan. 5.
The programs are annoying, mostly, because they’re more about marketing and public relations than anything else. They start with the cute names (“Click It or Ticket”) and media releases before a single person is even arrested. Local departments across Kane County and all over the country are going to be engaging in these two programs with these two cute names just like St. Charles- so expect more of these news “stories” to pop up quickly.
Why is that? That’s because the St. Charles Police department didn’t dream this little deal up- neither did any of the other police departments. It’s part of a Federally funded program where your local police can apply for grants. In exchange for the grants, the local police will do things like issue media releases saying they’ll be “extra-cautious” about impaired driving.
Of course, the feds pump the program on their end as well. They’ve set up this informative web page and published intimidating videos depicting things than no person I know who’s ever had to do public service has complained of:
But, I digress. The St. Charles media release doesn’t acs as though the department will pay special attention to impaired driving over this time because the police disregard impaired driving the rest of the year. Rather, it’s because the federal grants will go towards things like paying overtime for officers and possibly doing things like setting up roadblocks over this time of year.
So, does that grant money directly combat the problem of impaired driving? That much is clearly up for debate. Obviously the St. Charles Police, and other departments making use of the grants would tell you it does. Me? I’m not so sure- That’s a debate for another time.
Either way, the safest bet is to stay safe on the road and call for a ride whenever you’ve had anything to drink– regardless of what time of year it is or what catchy name the federal government is using to administer grants.