11/13/2007

DUI grant to steer impaired drivers off the road in Tenn.

Enforcement program runs now until Sept. 2008 
 
By William C. Bayne
The Commercial Appeal

HORN LAKE, Tenn. — Horn Lake police have received a $52,193 grant to improve enforcement of drunk driving laws, and $9,000 extra to help coordinate DUI enforcement in Northwest Mississippi.

"We've always been proactive in the enforcement of DUI offenses, but even then we've felt that the majority of impaired drivers have not been caught," Capt. Shannon Beshears said.

Beshears has been tabbed to coordinate the anti-DUI efforts of all law enforcement agencies in the Mississippi Highway Patrol district headquartered in Batesville.

"We will concentrate not only on those drivers who are impaired by alcohol, but also those operating vehicles after using illegal narcotics or prescription drugs," he said.

Beshears was in charge of the city effort last year to encourage seatbelt and child restraint device use.

"I feel like we were very successful with the number of citations we issued," he said. "We not only increased use of the seatbelts, we increased the awareness of the safety aspects involved in proper seatbelt usage."

He said the seatbelt enforcement efforts were undoubtedly aided by seatbelt enforcement programs in Southaven, Olive Branch and Hernando.

"It didn't make much difference which one of our cities you were in, all of our departments were focused on the need for proper seatbelt use."

He's hoping for a similar multi-agency response in DUI enforcement.

"We know we're going to have a lot of agencies involved. My role will be to serve as a coordinator to assist different agencies with their efforts and to put out press releases periodically about special enforcement activities."

Part of the $9,000 grant for Horn Lake is earmarked for a video camera to be placed in a special DUI-Enforcement vehicle.

"We want to get the video camera purchased and installed so that we can videotape the actions of those DUI suspects when they are stopped and to videotape actual field sobriety tests as they are conducted.

"I believe those tapes will be invaluable to prosecutors when the cases are tried in court. The tapes will show much better than any officer can describe the actual demeanor of those stopped and how they acted during the field test."

Like the seatbelt program last year, the DUI enforcement program runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2008. Both grants emphasize additional enforcement during holiday periods.

"We'll have extra patrols on New Year's Eve, but we'll also have special patrols and roadblocks throughout the year," Beshears said.

The grants are funded by the federal government through the state Department of Public Safety.

Copyright 2007 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.

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