New Year’s Eve is one of the deadliest nights for drivers. PCPD joined HCSO and FHP in a joint DUI Enforcement campaign to keep drivers safe throughout the new year.
The Plant City Police Department joined forces with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Highway Patrol for a DUI Enforcement campaign on New Year’s Eve.
Ringing in the new year is a tradition celebrated by millions of Americans, however, it is also one of the most dangerous nights on the road. If the holiday falls on a weekend, it is usually the deadliest day of the year to drive, according to AAA.
“We do enforcement countywide, but then there was a contingent of deputies and our guys that actually worked for them for Eastern Hillsborough,” Sgt. Al Van Duyne, spokesman for PCPD, said. “We actually didn’t get any in Plant City this year, but what they do is they brought their DUI vehicle — they call it the Batmobile — and they parked it at the old police department. That kind of serves as the central receiving area.”
There were approximately 30 arrests for DUI violations on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Hillsborough County, according to arrest reports. Several of those involved residents from Plant City. The majority of the arrests were made after midnight as people left their parties and bars and began to travel home.
As the deputies worked in Brandon, Seffner and Dover, Van Duyne said they would drive to Plant City rather than having to take the DUI arrests all the way to Orient Road Jail. The deputies would take the inebreated drivers, administer a breathalyzer and then send them with a detention deputy in a transport vehicle to jail.
According to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, Hillsborough County leads the state in DUI original violations in 2017. There were 4,499 original violations, topping the charts though other counties like Pinellas (3,155), Broward (3,104) and Miami-Dade (3,099) followed.
Across the state, there were 43,899 DUI violation tickets issued in 2017, according to the DMV. Of those, there were 24,334 DUI convictions. The enforcement of the tickets arises from a partnership of local law enforcement. Florida Highway Patrol issued 7,612 of the 43,899 tickets, police departments issued 17,530 tickets and 18,056 were issued by Florida Sheriff’s departments.
Florida has taken steps to crack down on reckless driving. State law mandates that anyone who was convicted of a second DUI has to have an Ignition Interlock device installed in the vehicle. A judge can decide against putting one in the car if it is someone’s first offense.
Florida also has the Implied Consent Law, meaning when you sign your driver’s license you agree to submit to chemical tests of your breath, blood or urine to determine alcohol or drug content if a law enforcement officer asks you too. Refusing results in a suspended license. Also, anyone convicted of a DUI under the age of 21 automatically has their license suspended for six months.
“Alcohol-impaired drivers are involved in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle deaths,” reads a study by the AAA. “An average of one alcohol-impaired-driving death occurs every 45 minutes. Each year, impaired- driving crashes cost the U.S. more than $50 billion.”
Van Duyne said they know Plant City is not immune to the devastation that frequently is caused by drunk or impaired drivers. He was recently in talks with PCPD Chief Ed Duncan and he said the plan is to “ramp up” their efforts in 2019 to tackle the serious issue.
The tentative plan is to have at least a quarterly focus on DUIs where officers, specifically those in the motorcycle division, will work special shifts to focus on inebriated drivers.
“We’re probably going to work our shifts through 3 or 4 a.m.,” Van Duyne said. “Those extremely late hours, that’s when the majority of the DUIs take place. For us, it’s been a little bit of trial and error. You work through 2 o’clock in the morning, but that’s just when the clubs and bars are closing. So if you live in Brandon, from Ybor at 2:15 you’ll catch a bad guy, but if you live in Valrico, Seffner, Dover, Plant City you’re talking 2:44 or 3 o’clock before those people come back.”
Though traditionally Plant City never sees large numbers of DUIs, Van Duyne said even one instance is one too many. With the new focus on preventing the crimes, he said hopefully PCPD will be able to keep Plant City a safe place to live.