New grant will help Berkley nab drunken drivers
By Karen Smith • MIRROR STAFF WRITER • November 23, 2008
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Berkley officers haven't set up a speed trap on 11 Mile, but they are going to step up efforts to nab drunken drivers throughout the city, Public Safety Director Richard Eshman said Monday.
Dr. Paul Benson of Be Well Medical Center, 1964 W. 11 Mile, told the City Council Monday night that Berkley officers have ticketed at least 50 of his patients recently for exceeding the 25 mph limit on 11 Mile.
"It's not right for the city to be known as a speed trap," he said, calling the tickets a hindrance to the business community. "It doesn't give us a good name at all."
Benson said the officers have zero tolerance for speeding. "There's no leniency," he said.
But Eshman said there's no speed trap on 11 Mile. He said he instructed his officers to watch for all traffic violations, including illegal left turns at intersections, in construction zones. Eleven Mile was recently rebuilt from Woodward and Coolidge.
"Risk factors go up in construction zones," he said, adding the barrels, trucks and activity make it hard to see workers and pedestrians. "It's about safeguarding the public and educating them."
He said officers use discretion, sometimes not issuing tickets at all or writing them for a lesser infraction. An officer, for example, may ticket someone for driving 5 mph over when they were actually going closer to 15 mph, he said, to avoid disagreements over what the speedometer might have said and what the radar recorded.
Where they exercise zero tolerance is in drunken driving, Eshman said. "It kills people."
Berkley has received a $8,560 traffic safety grant from the Office of Highway Safety Planning, Michigan State Police, to pay officers overtime to focus on impaired driving and safety belt violations in the city. Berkley was one of 14 communities in Oakland County to receive the grant. The council approved its acceptance Monday.
Eshman estimates that officers will be able to devote about 16-20 hours a month exclusively to patrol of drunken drivers and safety belt infractions.
He said this is the first grant like it for the city.
In the past five years, the department has stepped up its enforcement of drunken driving laws during regular patrol, Eshman said. Drunken driving arrests per year have climbed steadily from 33 in 2002 to 183 in 2007, he said.
Some people may not like Michigan's seat belt law, but its enforcement is part of the grant, he said. "We have a responsibility to keep all people safe; it's a state law and it's to be enforced."
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