The Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) has been awarded a new traffic-safety grant for a yearlong program aimed at preventing deaths and injuries on roadways. The $300,000 grant, awarded by the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will aid in the purchase of new equipment, and special traffic enforcement measures will be instituted by the department as part of an ongoing commitment to keep roadways safe through both enforcement and education, according to a press release issued Tuesday by LBPD.
“We are grateful to the Office of Traffic Safety for awarding us this grant, which will lend vital support towards commuter safety,” said Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell. “In these fiscally challenging times, this will allow us to enhance our enforcement and outreach efforts to prevent and reduce injury traffic collisions and protect lives.”
The grant will assist in efforts to deal with traffic safety problems and to reduce the number of persons killed and injured in traffic collisions. Traffic deaths from all causes declined 11.9 percent in California from 2010 to 2009 (from 3,081 to 2,715), according to LBPD. While alcohol-related deaths also saw a decline last year, DUI deaths remain the largest sector, at more than 30 percent of traffic fatalities.
The grant activities will specifically target motorcycle safety (including unsafe driving by vehicles near motorcycles), DUI offenders, drivers with suspended or revoked licenses, red light running, speeding, turning violations at intersections, distracted driving, and seatbelt violations. This will be accomplished through enforcement operations including:
• DUI/driver’s license
• DUI saturation patrols
• Red light enforcement
• Motorcycle safety operations
• Speed enforcement operations
• Intersection safety operations.
“Thanks to the dedicated, hard work of agencies like the Long Beach Police Department, California has the fewest traffic fatalities since 1944,” said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy. “While this is good news, we know that only by keeping the pressure on through enforcement and public awareness can we hope to sustain these declines and save lives.”
DUI/driver’s license checkpoints are a key component of the grant. These highly visible, widely publicized events are meant to deter impaired driving, not to increase arrests, according to LBPD. Research shows that crashes involving alcohol drop by an average of 20 percent when well publicized checkpoints are conducted often enough. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), checkpoints have provided the most effective documented results of any of the DUI-enforcement strategies, while yielding considerable cost savings of $6 for every $1 spent.
This grant also provides drug-impairment training to help combat the increasing problem of drivers under the influence of legal and illegal substances. Grant funding will allow 10 officers to receive specialized training to detect impaired drivers under the influence of legal and illegal drugs. This training will enhance officers’ ability to perform on-the-spot assessment of drivers suspected of drug impairment.
During this year, there will be four special motorcycle safety enforcement operations. Motorcycle fatalities have dropped in California, following a decade-long rise in deaths. In 2010, 353 motorcyclists were killed, a 37-percent drop from the all-time high for California in 2008.
Long Beach police officers will be conducting specialized enforcement efforts throughout the next 12 months, and extra officers will be on duty patrolling areas and events where motorcycle crashes and incidents have occurred. Officers will be cracking down on traffic violations made by regular drivers and motorcyclists that the LBPD says result in far too many motorcycle collisions, injuries and deaths.
“We are on the right path with declining fatalities,” Murphy said. “We have to stick to that path so that someday we can reach the vision we all share– ‘Toward zero deaths, every 1 counts.’”