By Alexandra Smith
PLUM, Pa. –The number of driving under the influence arrests being reported in the Plum area is a significant problem, according to Plum Borough Police officer Eric Zdobinski.
Plum Police officer Eric Granata said that approximately one third of all court cases heard in Allegheny County concern DUI charges.
The Plum Borough Police Department is the coordinating agency for the East Hills DUI Task Force, which conducts DUI checkpoints on roadways that have been identified by Penn-DOT as having a high probability of encountering impaired drivers. These roadways are identified by use of alcohol related crash statistics and DUI arrest statistics.
Plum Borough Police Lt. Jeffery Armstrong said that he believes the DUI checkpoints are less effective than in past years. “With the growth in popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the locations of sobriety checkpoints are now much more accessible and easily disseminated,” he said.
“Once the checkpoint is set up and operational, we have seen dramatic decline in vehicular traffic in a relatively short amount of time after the first cars are stopped because Facebook and Twitter users are quick to spread the word of where the checkpoints are located, which gives impaired drivers the opportunity to avoid them,” Armstrong added.
Plum Borough Police Sgt. Lanny Conley, coordinator of the East Hills DUI Task Force, said that DUI checkpoints can serve dual purposes. “The checkpoints are not specifically designed to catch impaired drivers, but to educate the drivers and passengers that the roadway they are traveling has been documented as having DUI related crashes,” he said.
“Every vehicle that comes through a checkpoint is advised and given an educational pamphlet that the driver and other occupants can read to become more educated,” Conley added.
As coordinator of the East Hills DUI Task Force, Conley said his job is to maintain the equipment in the DUI Task Force trailer, coordinate the enforcement events, attend additional training, supervise enforcement events, and document the results of each event.
According to Plum Borough Police officer William Snyder, there has been an increase in the amount of DUIs in the Plum area. “Plum is a growing community in Allegheny County,” he said. “When your population increases, so do your problems, police calls, and cars on the roadways.”
Snyder said that the most common age of people charged with DUIs in the Plum area is “between 19 and 25.”
The most common time of day for DUI arrests, according to Zdobinski, is “11 p.m. to 3 a.m., and on the more commonly traveled roads.”
“However, people have been arrested for a DUI on nearly every street in Plum, and at all hours of the day and night,” Zdobinski added.
Armstrong said that drivers charged with a DUI are typically charged with other offenses “only because being under the influence normally causes the driver to commit other minor violations, which ultimately draw attention to themselves.”
“For example, an impaired driver may speed, not stop at a stop sign, or drive through a red light without realizing it,” Armstrong added. “When they are stopped for the traffic violation, the officer may detect that they are under the influence. Then they are charged with a DUI, and also with the traffic offenses that established the officer’s probable cause for stopping the vehicle in the first place.”
Zdobinski said that most people who drive under the influence think they will never crash or get caught. “Nobody plans to crash or be arrested,” he said. “For that reason, people don’t really consider the effect that a simple DUI arrest would have on their lives, let alone a serious crash with injuries or death to themselves or another motorist.”
“I would tell them to be prepared for a major impact on their lives from a simple arrest including having a criminal history that they may have to divulge in a pre-employment screening, potential jail time, potential loss of employment, the suspension of their driver’s license, and the significant fines and costs involved,” Zdobinski added.
Snyder said that if a driver feels that another driver on the road is under the influence of alcohol, they should “monitor the driver, call 911, and have an officer respond to the scene.”