The Pinellas County Sheriff’s DUI Task Force is back and they mean business. Three deputies assigned to the unit made more than 100 DUI arrests each this year, according to an article in the Tampa Bay Times. Sheriff Gualtieri is hopeful the number of drunk driver crashes, totaling 60 in the first nine months of both 2012 and 2013, will decrease with deputies back on the streets.
Checkpoints are typically set up Wednesdays through Saturdays, dusk through dawn, in congested areas near busy bars advertising “Ladies Night,” or drink specials. Sergeant Skaggs, supervisor of the squad, says they look for signs to spot an intoxicated driver like someone who fails to stay in their lane, brakes too soon before a turn, signals incorrectly or drives too slowly.
Skaggs pointed out educating the public is a big part of the unit’s job, which includes six deputies. He said if a driver tests close to 0.08, they speak to them about the dangers of DUI and call a cab or a friend to get them off the road.
The new unit, which has been fully staffed for about four months, had already made nearly 500 DUI arrests from late April to September this year. From January through September, the agency wide arrest total rose to about 1,200.
Barb Aho, whose twenty year old son Robert and a friend were killed by a drunk driver two decades ago, was with the task force recently on the same stretch of U.S. 19 where the young men died. Aho became President of Remove Intoxicated Drivers Tampa Bay (RID) after her son’s death wanting to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving and save others from enduring what she’s suffered.
We applaud the Sheriff’s Task Force – there is much to be done to get drunk drivers off the road - reinstating DUI checkpoints is a start!