The National City Police Department will put $90,000 it’s received in grant funding from the Office of Traffic Safety to practical use.
"It's for DUI (driving under the influence) roving patrols and collision enforcement—unsafe turns at red lights, stop sign violations, cell phone and speed violations," said Sgt. Graham Young of National City Police Department's traffic division.
OTS funding won’t hire additional staff. What it will do, said Young, is “put officers on overtime out on the streets.”
With only four officers in its traffic division, without OTS supplemental funding, Young said National City police “wouldn’t be able to conduct these types of operations above and beyond what we’re doing.”
For example, Young said the only way National City can afford to do DUI checkpoints, which are critical to the police department’s public safety mission, is with OTS supplemental funding.
“I truly believe the enforcement we do with the money given to us from OTS brings down our number of hit and runs and injury and fatal accidents,” he said.
National City Police this year was one of 252 California agencies awarded a total of $77 million by the Office of Traffic Safety to bolster traffic enforcement.
OTS funds allow state, county and city agencies to curb impaired driving, encourage seat belt and child safety belt usage, discourage distracted driving and promote pedestrian, motorcycle and bicycle safety, all of which assists traffic law enforcement designed to save lives.
“Programs like these helped us reach a 66-year low in traffic deaths in 2010 in California,” said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy.
However, noting traffic deaths are once again trending upward, Murphy said OTS federal grant funds are now being awarded to programs “aimed squarely at major problem areas like distracted driving ... with increased enforcement and public awareness campaigns.”
Young said $90,000 in OTS funding goes a long way in National City.
“We’ll have two officers in two patrol cars for 27 DUI patrols a year, a little more than twice a month, out there looking for drunk drivers,” he said. “We’ll have two officers working 31 operations doing traffic enforcement like running intersections, red lights or speeding. Then we’ll have two officers in separate cars in 31 operations throughout the year doing texting and cell phones. That’s almost 100 operations throughout the year focusing on traffic enforcement.”
Additionally, Young said OTS funds will be used in operations to enforce laws governing motorcyclists, such as ensuring they’re wearing proper helmets.
In a prepared statement, the state Office of Traffic Safety noted the incidence of drugs in fatal crashes, both alone and in combination with alcohol, has increased steadily for the last five years. Consequently new OTS grants will fund increases in officers trained to detect drug-impaired drivers, special district attorneys dedicated to drugged-driving cases and new laboratory drug-testing equipment.
“We all came a long way in California in recent years with thousands of lives saved,” said Murphy. “But with thousands still dying and tens of thousands being injured, there is an ongoing need for the multifaceted approach provided by these grants.”
Summaries of the grants can be found at www.ots.ca.gov.