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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

California Office of Traffic Safety offers grants to help fund safety programs

JEREMY DANG / AGGIE

Yolo County District Attorney’s office receives grant

The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) has provided grants to the Vacaville Police Department of Education and Enforcement, the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office as well to the Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency this year for various programs to help increase safety on the road.

Timothy Weisberg, a public information officer for California Office of Traffic Safety, elaborated on the office’s history.

“The history of the California Office of Traffic Safety dates back to the 1960’s when Congress passed the Highway Safety Act of 1966,” Weisberg said. “In 1966 alone, nearly 51,000 people died on U.S. roads and recently, 2017 statistics showed just over 31,000. The act set new standards for traffic safety including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to administer funding for different traffic safety programs. In 1967, OTS was created to carry out California’s traffic safety program under the direction of the governor’s highway safety representative.”

Matt De Moura, the deputy district attorney for Yolo County, helped develop a DUI program, which also received grant funding. He was the first prosecutor in the program and was involved from 2012 to 2017.

The grant helps continue the program,” De Moura said. “We first got the grant through the California Office of Traffic Safety in 2012. In that time, it still is a highly competitive process. We got the funding to develop a specialized DUI unit to look at the most complicated and serious DUIs. We focused on drug-related DUIs, like marijuana and heroin. The more serious ones were where there were severe injuries leading up until death for particular homicides.”

De Moura noted how DUIs pose threats to the public through both drug and alcohol related incidents.
“Once a person gets behind a wheel of a car while impaired, they lose all ability to determine their actions,” De Moura said. “DUIs are so dangerous because they don’t choose their victim, and they are crimes that don’t discriminate against the victim. Anyone can be a victim because they’re so unpredictable. There’s also huge financial costs, and several billions of dollars are lost to damage, injury, lots of work — all because of DUIs. They pose a great risk to health and finances.”

Jeff Reisig, the district attorney for Yolo County, also indicated how DUIs pose threats, according to a Yolo County press release.

“Yolo County, along with all of California, will face a unique time in its history with cannabis becoming more accessible through businesses this year,” Reisig said in the press release. “With an increasing number of DUIs nationwide over the last few years it is crucial that law enforcement agencies and District Attorney’s offices dedicate resources toward protecting unsuspecting victims from the destruction that DUI drivers leave both physically and emotionally on their victims and the victims’ families. Our OTS program allows us to be proactive in deterrence through education, but at the same time reactive through holding those accountable who break the law and put the public at risk.”

The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office has received funding for this year. They plan to focus on three categories to enrich the community’s knowledge.

“The goal is threefold — it’s prosecution, education and outreach,” De Moura said. “The outreach is where we do our community engagement, where we educate the population that drug impaired driving is a real issue. It’s increasing and it’s prevalent. Prescription pills, even when prescribed by a doctor, can impair you and make it unsafe when operating a car. We want to share that with the public with students and education falls in line with that.”

The grants can provide money needed for resources to carry out such programs like making sure pedestrians and drivers yield to each other. In addition, the purpose of these grants is to help educate children and teens on traffic rules.

“It is about saving lives through different traffic safety efforts, not just enforcement but through education, public awareness [and] campaigns to promote safe behaviors,” Weisberg said. “Each year, we develop a highway safety plan that identifies priority areas for funding and goals to reduce traffic injuries caused by dangerous actions. Almost all crashes are preventable and we can’t drive that point enough.”

 

Written by: Stella Tran – city@theaggie.org

 

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