Summer DUI traffic collisions rose from 2011 to 2013, according to South Lake Tahoe Police Department numbers.
Between May 1 to Sept. 3 during those three years, fewer DUI arrests occurred since 2011 with more DUI-related traffic collisions in 2013. South Lake Tahoe Police Department Chief Brian Uhler said this summer the department was unable to spend as much time patrolling in search of drunken drivers due to fewer officers available.
“DUI is a proactive-measure item,” Uhler said, adding DUI cases are not like murders or robberies where the officers are called out. “If we have lots of calls and a lot of people in town, it can take away from proactive DUI (search) time or other patrol opportunities.”
These cases take an officer to be on the road looking for drunk drivers unless it’s an accident, which would be “response-oriented,” he said.
“This has been a busy summer, and that can skew the numbers,” Uhler said. “All the response-oriented workload goes up. It’s all very linear to put the relationship between factors we have little control over.”
In 2011, there were 82 DUI arrests and seven alcohol-related traffic collisions; in 2012 there were 52 DUI arrests but 10 alcohol-related traffic collisions; and in 2013 to date there have been 62 DUI arrests with 19 alcohol-related traffic collisions, according to department numbers.
South Lake Tahoe area California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Jeff Gartner reported a declining trend from 2012 to 2013.
The CHP reported in 2011 there were 93 DUI reports; in 2012 there were 103 DUI reports and in 2013 there have been 93 DUI reports. For CHP, 2012 was the highest year for DUI collisions at five, but 2011 and 2013 both had two DUI-related traffic collisions.
The local CHP office jurisdiction starts at U.S. Highway 50 at Twin Bridges near Horsetail Falls Trailhead and ends at the South Lake Tahoe City Limits at Airport Road.
Injured officers, three homicide cases taking priority and a high volume of visitors this summer are all factors in police officers allocating their time and resources, Uhler said.
Additionally, Uhler said there was grant funding throught the California Office of Traffic Safety’s AVOID program that was available to the department last summer during the summer months to pay officers overtime to conduct DUI checkpoints and patrol on weekends.
This summer, the funding hadn’t come through until after Labor Day.
Helping police departments bypass the administrative process to obtain the grant funding, the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office has been spearheading the application nexus.
Now with the funding flowing again, Uhler said more stops and time to check for drunken drivers would be implemented toward the holiday season later this year.
“As far as our internal communication, we’re aware that we’re up way too many pedestrians run over by drunk drivers,” Uhler said, adding there have been issues of intoxicated people walking into the highways and getting hit as well. “We take it seriously.”