PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — The Santa Monica Police Department has been awarded a traffic safety grant to fund a year-long program aimed at preventing deaths and injuries on local roadways.

The $158,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety will fund traffic enforcement measures such as drivers’ license/sobriety checkpoints.

“The grant activities will specifically target motorcycle safety, DUI offenders, drivers with suspended or revoked licenses, red light running, speeding and seatbelt violations,” said SMPD Chief Tim Jackman. “This will be done through the use of DUI/driver’s license checkpoints and special enforcement operations.”

Traffic deaths from all causes declined in California by 11.9 percent, from 3,081 killed in 2009 to 2,715 in 2010. While alcohol-impaired deaths saw a sharp decline last year, driving under the influence (DUI) deaths remain the largest sector, at more than 30 percent of traffic fatalities.

“Thanks to the dedicated hard work of agencies like the Santa Monica 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 and publicized events are meant to deter impaired driving, not to increase arrests, law enforcement officials said.

Research shows that crashes involving alcohol drop by an average of 20 percent when checkpoints are conducted often enough. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 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.

The 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 additional officers to receive specialized training to detect impaired drivers under the influence of legal and illegal drugs. This training will provide on-the-spot assessment of drivers suspected of drug impairment.

For a third year in a row, there will be four special motorcycle safety enforcement operations. Motorcycle fatalities have finally 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.

Santa Monica police officers will be conducting specialized enforcement efforts throughout the next 12 months. 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 vehicle drivers and motorcyclists that result in far too many motorcycle collisions, injuries and deaths.

“We are on the right path with declining fatalities,” said Murphy. “We have to stick to that path so that someday we can reach the vision we all share — toward zero deaths, every one counts.”

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