MADD Launches Innovative Program to Reduce Drunk Driving
Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Florida (MADD Florida) has launched a volunteer-based pilot program in Hillsborough County (the county in which Tampa is located) designed to assist in removing drunken drivers from the roadways.
"The Traffic Observation Program (T.O.P.) is exactly what the name implies," stated Don Murray, MADD Florida's Executive Director/CEO. "Specially trained and certified volunteers operating from their personal vehicles in teams of two, at peak hours and in key locations around the county…and using donated cell phones, will notify law enforcement when observing a driver who appears to be intoxicated."
"T.O.P. drivers will focus only on the safe operation of the vehicle, while the passenger functions as a trained observer, watching for erratic driving, and using the cell phone to immediately notify Law Enforcement," continued Murray. "It takes special training to do this safely and correctly. DUI Drivers often exhibit subtle clues to their condition. We are working closely with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and other agencies during our initial launch phase."
"Our volunteers will have no contact with the drivers of subject vehicles," continued Murray. "They will not be conducting traffic stops, engaging in vehicle pursuits, or intervening directly. Their job will be only to observe and notify. It's a very stealthy and simple concept," said Murray. "That soccer-mom minivan behind you may contain a team of trained observers determined to save a life and prevent an avoidable crash."
MADD's Traffic Observation Program in Hillsborough County will be the first such program in the nation, and promises several benefits. First, law enforcement agencies will receive the benefits of having additional trained eyes on the roadways searching for DUI drivers, with no budget impact. Second, the community will benefit as DUI drivers will be specifically targeted, potentially saving lives and preventing serious bodily injury. "There may be as many as 20-30 additional sets of trained eyes on the road during the most active and troublesome hours and in known problem areas," said Murray. Third, the program is non-intrusive and doesn't require road blocks that some states prohibit because they violate their constitutions. Fourth, many researchers and law enforcement personnel believe that "roving patrols" are much more efficient and effective in reducing DWI/DUI. Fifth, such patrols can alert police to any form of impaired driving, such as drugged driving and sleep-impaired driving.
Murray believes the success of this pilot program will likely lead to the expansion of the T.O.P. Program throughout Florida, and possibly to other MADD entities across the nation.
The T.O.P program is a promising approach to a serious problem. However, anyone can help law enforcement officials right now to reduce drunken driving. Learn how by visiting Help Police Stop Drunken Drivers.
- MADD Florida. MADD Florida Launches Pilot Program to Catch Drunk Drivers. Tampa: MADD Florida press release, September 27, 2007.
filed under: Drinking and Driving