August 22, 2014

Our Views: At DUI checkpoint, say thanks

Next time you have to pause at a DUI checkpoint, you might want to tell the officer you’re glad he or she is there. Why? Because if they weren’t, your chances of dying in car wreck with a drunk driver would be higher. A lot higher.

Next time you have to pause at a DUI checkpoint, you might want to tell the officer you’re glad he or she is there. Why? Because if they weren’t, your chances of dying in car wreck with a drunken driver would be higher. A lot higher.

Unfortunately, some people don’t appreciate the checkpoints. We’re not talking about drunks who get collared. According to Police Chief Magazine, DUI checkpoints have come under fire as a deterrent to driving after drinking and 10 states have banned them while another, Alaska, doesn’t do them. Only 11 states do them on a weekly basis.

We’re not sure if California falls into that category, but we’ve got to be close. Last weekend, Ceres police coordinated the “Avoid the 12” campaign, with 12 agencies doing checkpoints, resulting in 28 arrests (down from 42 the previous year). There will be more DUI checkpoints this weekend (beware if you’re attending X-Fest tonight) and even more next week, Labor Day weekend.

But why thank an officer for trying to sniff your breath or looking into your eyes to check your pupils? Because states with regular checkpoints have 20 percent fewer fatalities per capita. Checkpoints came into vogue in the 1980s, and fatalities fell 2 percent per year through 1997, resulting in a 36 percent overall reduction, according to an article in Traffic Injury Prevention. Since then the numbers have diminished and now are flat – except in states where checkpoints are routine.

Oh, and if you think you can fool the officer about the number of drinks you’ve had, you might be right. But you probably won’t fool the tiny Passive Alcohol Sensors that can be attached to a flashlight. They scan the air to pick up exhaled alcohol. In one test, the sensor spotted twice as many drunks as the cop. Anyone having a drink while out on the town should heed the advice of Ceres interim Police Chief Brent Smith: “There’s always another way home.” Because of these frequent checkpoints, the way home is always safer.

That’s for the parking space ...

Seeing the prices of houses increase 19 percent in a single year might be startling to some. And the notion that only about half the residents of Stanislaus County can afford to buy a home is a bit concerning. But we’ve got to keep this in perspective. First, a year ago, when housing prices were nearly 20 percent lower, we were still lagging just a little from the Great Recession. Not now. And then you have to compare our prices to others around the state. The median price for a home in the county is $214,250. In San Francisco the price is $150,000. No, no, no that’s not for a home. That’s for a parking space. Since the city instituted rules linking parking spaces to housing, the market for parking spaces has accelerated. If you want an actual home attached to that parking spot, it will run you around $991,000.

The battle over groundwater

The Maddy Report radio show and podcast will go deep into groundwater controversy this weekend in “Groundwater pumping in the Valley: Free for all?” Some people consider the legislation to regulate groundwater pumping more important than the recent water bond that was placed on the November ballot. Others, such as the California Farm Bureau, consider the rules too restrictive. The Fresno Bee’s Mark Grossi, the Community Water Center’s Laurel Firestone, USGS hydrogeologist Michelle Sneed and Maddy Institute executive director Mark Keppler talk it over Sunday at 10 a.m. on KMJ radio (AM 580) or at www.calchannel.com.

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