Thursday, October 31, 2013

Peak hour sobriety checkpoint chaos in Temecula

Stock photo: © Versageek-CC-BY-SA
Thousands of motorists and RTA's bus Route 24 ran into frustrating traffic congestion and gridlock along Temecula surface streets yesterday morning at the tail end of the a.m. peak hour commute. A water pipe rupture that occurred the night before caused lane closures along the westbound side of Temecula Parkway which connects the southern side of town to the I-15 freeway. This is a very high volume corridor with vehicle counts comparable to some freeways. Therefore, the SigAlert was serious. The bus route was delayed. Many drivers detoured north to Rancho California Road in an attempt bypass the traffic only to be greeted by a police DUI sobriety checkpoint. Yes, you read that right. The Temecula Police Department set up a sobriety checkpoint along the westbound lanes of Rancho California Road at Moraga Road during the Wednesday morning rush hour which ran from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. Even with the SigAlert taking place along Temecula Parkway, the DUI checkpoint operation continued as planned.

The resulting situation was chaos on Temecula streets. Motorists flooded connecting streets in an attempt to get around both roadblocks. Many detoured north to Winchester Road, pretty much creating forced-flow traffic conditions along many streets. Gridlock was bad enough that the Temecula Valley News published a route to get around the sobriety checkpoint.

There is no excuse for this madness. This was preventable. Police knew of the Temecula Parkway SigAlert. Public safety was cited as the reason why the checkpoint operation continued. However, creating a situation that seriously worsens already congested traffic flow during a rush hour SigAlert which contributes towards aggressive driving, commuter frustration, lost productivity, unsafe lane changes, and red light running does nothing to make Temecula streets safer. Unless there were any immediate grave safety issues at stake, the DUI checkpoint should have been postponed at once and the inspecting officers should have been reassigned to patrol the areas of concern in order to find and catch the drunk drivers using intelligence driven enforcement means. That would have freed up much of the traffic congestion. The DUI checkpoint to deter dangerous drunk driving would then be rescheduled to another undisclosed location.

There are extraordinary cases where police checkpoints during rush hours is vital. In February, armed law enforcement screened every motorist leaving the San Bernardino Mountains along each of the mountain highways which led to massive traffic delays. Unlike a deterrent checkpoint, this was clearly to keep fugitive Christopher Dorner from escaping the area. That peak-hour operation was absolutely justified. On the other hand, with increased traffic volumes along I-15, the U.S. Border Patrol uses intelligence driven means to catch drug and trafficking criminals instead of stopping every motorist at the Temecula/Rainbow checkpoint station most of the time. Ever notice seldom use of the checkpoints nowadays? That does not mean border criminals are free to do whatever they please. They are being watched more closely.

Now, we hope that the Temecula DUI checkpoint was part of a larger investigation that positively warranted shutting down peak-direction lanes on a busy commercial corridor during a SigAlert in lieu of using intelligence driven roving patrols to catch peak hour drunk driving. If not, there's going to be a lot of anger from local residents.

The question is: How many drunk or dangerous drivers were indeed caught during this morning rush hour sting?

It is clear that government officials have to accept the fact that setting up crime deterrent-oriented checkpoints during peak travel times needs to be analyzed by traffic engineers so that such safety operations do not contribute toward traffic chaos or commuter delays which choke up productivity and exacerbate unsafe aggressive driving elsewhere. Any unplanned extraordinary traffic incident causing traffic delays at or near a planned DUI checkpoint location should be grounds to postpone such deterrent efforts with the resources spent toward roving patrols. In addition, intelligence driven enforcement combined with roving patrols are key to actually getting dangerous drunk drivers off the roads and into jail, especially during rush hours. The city government should work with law enforcement to prevent such chaotic traffic conditions from occurring again while maintaining the safety our streets and highways.

3 comments:

  1. You sound apologetic to an extent, this checkpoint was nothing less than tyranny. The idea that this was a DUI checkpoint is a red herring and a load of S.

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    1. We keep our transportation views fact-based and not on emotion. In fairness, the facts are generally showing that intelligence-driven roving patrols do a better job at getting dangerous drunk drivers off the streets than checkpoints. That was also evident with the U.S. Border Patrol's efforts to stop illegal smuggling and trafficking from Mexico; freeway/highway checkpoints are less used to keep traffic moving, but criminals are being watched even closer and more are getting caught.

      However, peak-hour checkpoint enforcement was necessary last February to prevent the violent at-large criminal Christopher Dorner from hitching a ride out of the San Bernardino Mountains. There was no way around. The public may or may not have all the facts of specifically why Temecula law enforcement planned a DUI checkpoint during the tail end of the morning rush hour instead of using roving patrols to catch drunk drivers. That's why a conditional opinion statement was posted. It is highly unlikely that this checkpoint was necessary, but still possible based on the limited information that was made public.

      As mentioned, if the Temecula checkpoint was not part of a larger police investigation that positively could not be addressed otherwise by using intelligence-driven roving patrols to catch peak hour drunk driving, then there was no excuse to create this kind of local traffic gridlock during peak-commute hours and the worsened aggressive driving and anger that went with it.

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  2. It will be really good to see Temecula streets safer. DUI checkpoints are instrumental in finding and catching drunk drivers. Though there would be some traffic congestion but it’s worth given the increase in safety it brings. My brother works with a DUI lawyer and has told me that DUI checkpoint helps deter dangerous drunk driving. He has also told me enough times importance of hiring an experienced DUI attorney Los Angeles.

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