On Nov. 12, the Davis Police Department (DPD) received a grant to fund overtime staffing in the traffic safety department through a program called “AVOID.”
“This program is specifically intended to create coordinated regional traffic enforcement teams to conduct saturation patrols, sobriety checkpoints, DUI [driving under the influence] enforcement, holiday traffic enforcement, public information campaigns, etc. within each local jurisdiction participating in the AVOID program,” stated the official City of Davis staff report.
“Saturation patrols” involve the police sending out additional enforcement to a concentrated area at a specific time of day, in this case, at night when most DUIs occur.
Devin Connolly, a third-year economics major, believes that the grant will be an asset to the community and strengthen the safety of night drivers in Davis.
“I think it could be worth it. I pay a lot more attention to other drivers when I’m driving home late at night [or] in the morning during the weekends. I think if people knew the risk associated with drunk driving was higher they wouldn’t do do it as often,” Connolly said.
Laura Masterpaul, a fourth-year English major, disagreed with Connolly. Masterpaul said she believes that if the police force’s goal is to control safety breaches caused by intoxicated citizens, the money should be spent on more effective means to achieve this goal.
“No, I don’t think Davis is more likely to have DUIs because most people don’t drive downtown to the bars and we have Tipsy Taxi and drive with friends who are sober,” Masterpaul said. “I think the money should go toward increasing the security at night so people walking back from partying will be better protected, but not necessarily get arrested for being drunk. The money might be effective, but I don’t see the importance of holiday traffic monitoring.”
There are fewer DUI arrests in Yolo County than in many other counties in California. The annual report of the California DUI management information system stated that in 2010, Yolo County had a total of 1,030 DUI arrests versus Santa Clara’s 6,447 arrests.
However, it is important to consider that Yolo County’s population is not as high as in other counties. According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2010, Yolo County’s population was 200,849 whereas Santa Clara’s population was 1,781,642.
Jim Ivler, the administrative service manager for the City of Davis police and fire departments, said he believes that drunk driving is a problem everywhere, and Davis is no different from the other counties in which AVOID has been implemented.
“AVOID grants and programs have been pretty common around the state for years. Yolo County had never done one, so back in 2006 all law enforcement agencies in Yolo County applied for the AVOID grant, and the one that was just installed is the fifth of these grants. The way it works is that one agency is designated as the host agency, and they coordinate among other facilities,” Ivler said.
Ivler added that the AVOID program is known as “avoid the eights” because there are eight law enforcement agencies involved. Davis has been the host agency for four of the five grants.
Tracey Tilley, a third-year environmental science and management major, said she believes that most of Davis is comprised of students and believes many students do not have the means or lack of sense to drive drunk.
“I don’t think Davis as a college town is more likely to have DUIs because a lot of students don’t have cars up here. Students also tend to be more educated about the dangers of drunk driving,” Tilley said. “A lot of the organizations and clubs on campus, such as Greek life, have some sort of system of sober drivers. I think the funds could be more beneficial in other aspects of our community.”
Delaney McCune, a second-year economics major, does not think the grant will be an effective use of Yolo County’s money. While she understands why parents raising families in Davis may be concerned about local drinking, she believes it is already under control.
“No, there hasn’t been any real problems recently that have been life threatening, I don’t think we have all that much drunk driving in Davis. I mean, it’s a college town; there is going to be underage drinking no matter what rules you set. I think it’s money that could be used for other things,” McCune said.
When asked if he thought Davis was of particular concern because of the student population, Ivler said he believes DUIs are a problem in all counties.
“I think it’s a problem everywhere, even though our population does tend to swell when students are in school,” Ivler said. “I don’t want to say that all our DUIs are students, but do we have student DUIs? Of course we do, so it’s just alcohol everywhere. The program [did not originate] in Yolo County which shows it’s a problem everywhere.”