Police fleet gets a DUI Enforcement Vehicle

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A grant was awarded to Winters based on a significant uptick in fatal DUI-related accidents in 2020. (Courtesy photo)

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Three fatal DUI-related traffic collisions in 2020 have everything to do with the new Winters Police Department DUI and traffic enforcement vehicle.

The new addition to the department’s fleet was funded by the California Highway Patrol Cannabis Task Fund Grant Program, awarded to Winters based on the significant uptake in population size and fatal accidents, according to Winters Police Department Chief John P. Miller.

“In 2020, we suffered three fatal accidents, two primary collision factors were DUI, and one was DUI related,” Miller said. “That is a lot for a small town.”

In 2016, when California passed Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, a special tax was imposed on cannabis and strictly designated for law enforcement, explained Miller, adding the California Highway Patrol oversees and distributes those funds.

After Winters received the grant, it ordered the vehicle but motor vehicle chip shortages and supply chain issues held up delivery for 15 months. The sleek-profile car could not have come at a better time, with DUI arrests up substantially.

“Historically, Winters sees 20-25 DUI arrests a year, and while it doesn’t sound like a whole lot given our size, so far year-to-date, we are already at that number,” Miller said. “We are tracking almost double the number of DUI arrests — this year alone — than the previous years.”

Along with the new vehicle, Winters Police Department was supplied with new preliminary alcohol screening devices and  further DUI training from the grant. Another grant, the Office of Traffic Safety STEP Grant, supports overtime detail and DUI enforcement training.

According to Miller, some of that overtime detail was used on Labor Day weekend, when two STEP grant officers on duty delivered more than 20 citations.

“Lake Berryessa is a very popular spot with a lot of drinking,” Miller said, adding Labor Day is a big DUI target date for CHP and other law enforcement. “That is why we had two officers out there making stops and looking for DUIs.”

The difference between the traditional black-and-white patrol car and the new DUI vehicle is its low-profile grey coloring. Among other vehicles, it does not stand out, which is the whole point, according to Miller, adding this car is intended to apprehend violators who refuse to follow the law.

“If they pull over someone for speeding on Grant Avenue Highway 128, it’s not necessarily the speeder they caught: it’s also the 30 somewhat people that drove by saying better that guy than me,” Miller said. “We can’t get every violator, but it’s the possibility of being caught.”

While taking on the DUI vehicle, Winters is again waiting patiently for a Ford Interceptor SUV, a new hybrid patrol car ordered by Miller nine months ago.

“It’s a smaller vehicle than our Chevy Tahoe’s that we currently drive, which are a V8, so that we will see significant gas savings,” Miller said.

Miller explained the importance of a patrol vehicle being pursuit-rated while considering energy conservation.

“We went with the V6 because it is better gas mileage than the Hemi V8,” he said. “We are thinking about our resources and cost, and a hybrid will be perfect for the type of driving we do, which is stop and go, and stop and go.”

Miller would have ordered a hybrid DUI vehicle; however, the model was unavailable when he called the car, which is a hit on social media. He said there is nothing but positive feedback for the post that shows the old-school black-and-white car next to the inconspicuous DUI vehicle. If motorists heed Miller’s message at the end of the post, “always have a sober designated driver or get a ride home,” they will never have to be pulled over by the new DUI vehicle. That’s the goal.

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