NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 6, 2006

Fresno may be the toughest city in the nation on drunken drivers.  An intoxicated motorist is more likely to run into a police checkpoint in this city of 461,000 than anywhere else in the United States, according to Fresno police.  Police sneak into the driveways of convicted drunken drivers to plant Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking devices on their cars and search their homes for evidence they've been drinking.

Fresno's hard-as-nails approach to drunken driving comes at a time when some police, prosecutors, probation officials and traffic safety advocates are calling for stepped-up efforts to reduce the death toll from drunken driving:

  • After declining steadily for nearly 20 years, the number of people killed each year in alcohol-related crashes leveled off -- at 16,000 to 17,000 -- in the mid-1990s and hasn't dropped significantly since.
  • Only about 1 in 50 alcohol-impaired drivers is actually arrested, says Susan Ferguson, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
  • Many of those who do get arrested don't stop driving drunk -- about a third of all drivers arrested for drunken driving are repeat offenders, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
  • The group says 50 percent to 75 percent of drivers whose licenses are suspended or revoked for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) continue to drive without a license.

Those numbers are unacceptable to some fed-up police, probation officers and prosecutors, who are using increasingly aggressive tactics to reduce drunken driving:

  • Fresno hired 92 new officers, boosted revenue from traffic fines by $5 million a year and cut drunken-driving deaths.
  • The city also began warning those convicted of DUI that, while they were on probation, GPS devices might be attached to their cars.

Source: Larry Copeland, "Some see Fresno's DUI crackdown as a model; Bar stings and GPS devices among tough new tactics," USA Today, November 6, 2006.


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