Q: Why does RCPD announce DUI checkpoints? Wouldn’t that just notify people to do their risky driving elsewhere?
A: It might sound counterintuitive at first, but part of the reason the Riley County Police Department announces DUI saturation patrols and check lanes is to deter those incidents and bad driving behaviors from occurring in the first place.
“We want to continue the conversation about driving safety and roadway safety,” RCPD spokeswoman Hali Rowland said. “We hope it encourages drivers to plan ahead to find a safe way home if they choose to drink.”
The Kansas Department of Transportation’s Impaired Driving Deterrence program, which provides the funding for the patrols through a grant, also requires law enforcement departments to announce them beforehand but does not specify whether they need to include what time or where the checkpoints will take place.
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The most recent sobriety checkpoint, which ran through Friday night into Saturday morning at the Bluemont Avenue roundabout, was designed to identify impaired drivers and remove them from roads.
According to RCPD, officers stopped 333 vehicles in the checkpoint and evaluated 23 people for DUI, which resulted in five arrests.
RCPD uses recent crash information and data to determine where checkpoints will be. The police uses similiar data for its enhanced traffic enforcement.
Sgt. Brandon Tapp said in an email that Bluemont Avenue is a statistically high area for crashes, and officers have tested for several positive DUIs on the street in the recent past. Historically, RCPD also sees an above average number of DUIs on the days before home K-State football games.
On the flip side, RCPD does announce general times and locations for its enhanced traffic enforcement, which is part of its Accident Reduction Citations 2.0 initiative. This, too, is to prevent crashes by making citizens alert and educating drivers.
Rowland said RCPD does enhanced traffic enforcement whenever it happens to have extra officers available to make a concentrated effort to reduce crashes in certain areas. She said officers try to explain why people are pulled over daily, not just during these particular program stops.
“We want to make sure drivers understand what infraction exactly they are getting pulled over for and what they can do to help fix that in future driving,” she said. “We’ve found that helps to build a better relationship with our community, and it helps people to better understand exactly what the laws are.”
During ARC 2.0 stops, officers also explain to drivers that the K-State and internal research-backed program identified the top five things citizens want police to enforce, which includes DUIs, speeding (especially in school zones), tailgating, running red lights and stops signs, and cellphone usage (especially texting).
“When we pull drivers over for those infractions, we explain that as well, that ‘Hey, we polled citizens, and they want us to be looking out for these things,’ reinforcing that we’re not out there pulling people over just because,” Rowland said. “We’re doing this to make the roads safer and because it’s what the citizens of Riley County want.”
Rowland said some social media comments have said drivers will return to risky driving habits once RCPD is not actively in a certain location.
“We will be out on those roadways making sure that they are safe for everybody to drive,” she said. “We’re not going anywhere, we have officers that are out patrolling, and we’ll be available to help at any time when they need us.”
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