Police Fail to Detect Drunk Drivers During Holiday Crackdown

Thousands of dollars were wasted by police officials through ineffective enforcement of Michigan drunk driving laws over the 2009 holiday season. During the second week of January 2010, the Michigan Department of State Police revealed that only 300 drunk driving arrests were made during the recent holiday crackdown. Officers were required to put in an average of 25 road patrol hours for every drunk driving arrest while assigned to special DUI enforcement teams during peak hours, failing to detect many impaired motorists. Officers from across the state worked 7,500 hours of increased enforcement over a 12-day period, resulting in 7,510 traffic stops. The DUI crackdown averaged a paltry one stop per each hour put in by police. After stopping motorists on suspicion of drunk driving, DUI enforcement officers discovered a whopping 96% of those drivers were sober. The crackdown cost taxpayers $300,000, catching only 300 suspected drunk drivers. During the same time period, California law enforcement officers were nearly 10 times more effective, making over 2,600 drunk driving arrests in Los Angeles County alone. A statewide crackdown in Colorado netted 444 drunk drivers in half the number of days with a population less than half that of Michigan. Michigan repeatedly performs poorly in the area of drunk driving enforcement because officers are inadequately trained and receive little encouragement to obtain proficiency. Across the country, most DUI task force officers employ training received through the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The comprehensive three-day training course introduces officers to effective detection and testing of impaired motorists. Michigan officers rarely receive this training, and trained officers are free to disregard everything taught during the course. Thomas Page, a nationally recognized prosecution expert and author of Medical-Legal Aspects of Abused Substances, states that “the detection and apprehension of impaired motorists require officers to focus on driving behaviors and to correctly administer the standardized field sobriety test battery.” Page indicates that these tests should not be viewed as optional or disregarded, and many officers are likely releasing impaired motorists if the officers are not following the NHTSA training. Tony Corroto, a retired DUI police instructor turned defense expert, agrees and says that Michigan courts are “by far the worst in terms of enforcing standards” regarding DUI detection and enforcement. “The standardized field sobriety tests should be a requirement in Michigan,” according to Corroto. “By failing to implement the NHTSA training, officers may not be able to detect impaired drivers.” For every person stopped on suspicion of being drunk over the holiday crackdown, 24 out of 25 turned out to be sober. Only 5% of the tickets issued by DUI enforcement officers went to drunk drivers. These incredible statistics reveal that Michigan police require better training in the detection and apprehension of drunk drivers. Originally published 28th January, 2010 - Posted by William J. Maze