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1,000 tickets and counting: Officer offers tips for road

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Posted: Monday, April 12, 2010 12:00 am

Officer Eric Versteeg has been with the Lodi Police Department for more than six years. He was a dispatcher for three years and was eventually hired as a police officer. He has been on the street for the past three years.

Versteeg is an evidence technician as well as a member of the auxiliary bicycle patrol. He is currently attending the two-week traffic officer school, where he is learning the fine points of riding a police motorcycle. He will be assigned to the traffic division upon graduation from the school.

He also received the Rick Cromwell Award at the department's award luncheon last week. The award was based on his extraordinary efforts in the area of traffic enforcement.

I asked him to share some of his experiences with News-Sentinel readers.

Q: How many citations have you issued and how many driving under the influence arrests have you made over the past three years?

A: I've written roughly 1,000 traffic citations and made nearly 200 DUI arrests.

Q: How many driving under the influence awards have you received over the years?

A: In the last three years, I've garnered six regional and statewide awards from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Q: What types of driving conduct attracts your attention?

A: Essentially I look for things a sober and alert driver would not normally do. Impaired drivers will often weave during straight stretches of road, make wide turns, or stop well before or after the white limit lines near stop signs or stop lights. I also watch for vehicles pulling over to the side of the road quickly when they see me.

Q: What do the drivers usually tell you when you contact them?

A: It's funny but, when asked, quite a few folks will only admit to having just "two beers" no matter how intoxicated they are. Rarely do I come across the honest person who admits immediately that they've had too much to drink.

Q: What kind of tests are the drivers given on the sidewalk or on the side of the road?

A: They are asked to complete field sobriety tests. The tests consist of doing simple tasks and following directions. If they are arrested, they must submit to a blood or breath test.

Those people under 21 years old with a blood alcohol content between .01 and .04 will have their license suspended. If it is .05-.07 they will receive a ticket as well. If it is above .08, they will be booked into to jail.

Some people do not realize that they can also be arrested for driving while under the influence of prescription drugs.

Q: How long are they in custody after they are arrested?

A: Once fingerprinted and booked, they stay in our jail for four to six hours until they sober up. They receive a citation and their driver's license is taken from them. Their vehicle was towed from the scene of the traffic stop, so they now have to pay a tow release fee to the police department and the tow and storage fees to the tow company. It amounts to a couple of hundred dollars.

The drivers will lose their good driver's discount with their insurance company and DMV will suspend their license for a month or longer. A first-time conviction can cost the driver a $2,300 fine and 10 days in jail. They will also have to complete a first-time offender program.

Q: Anything else you'd like to add?

A: According to MADD, someone is killed by a drunk driver every 45 minutes. In 2008, 11,773 people died in alcohol-related crashes.

There are many options for people who drink to the point they should not get behind the wheel. They should use a designated driver or take a cab home. During the holiday season, AAA provides a tow service for those who are not able to drive their vehicles due to being under the influence. When all else fails, it's better to walk home than try to drive drunk.

Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at jbiskup@pd.lodi.gov; mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240; or asked by phone at 333-6864.

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Welcome to the discussion.

6 comments:

  • posted at 6:18 am on Thu, Apr 15, 2010.

    Posts:

    I think there is a helmet law. Last week out of 16 under age bikers(I was counting) only 2 wore helpmets. A kid on a mountain bike and my daughter. The cops never ticket the teens on crusier bikes. That that would be a way to pick up a few bucks, there is also no enforcement of the cell phone law, they could start enforcing that to0.

     
  • posted at 4:11 pm on Tue, Apr 13, 2010.

    Posts:

    wujek: Again those tickets did not stop the accidents, they only raised money for the city. People drive carefully because most people are decent, not because of their fear of a ticket. I drive carefully because I do not want to cause problems. Yes, red light runners and crazies will always be with with us.But a ticket because your tire touched the curb "too much" is crooked and is simply a fundraiser for the city who is broke like like all cities.

     
  • posted at 12:14 pm on Tue, Apr 13, 2010.

    Posts:

    Patricia - he didn't say there was anything wrong with stopping "a few feet" away from the white line at stop signs. He said one of the things he looks for is drivers who stop "well before or after" the white line. I think most of us know what this means. Obviously, you can't stop 20 feet before the line and then proceed to blow through the line when you reach it. That's not a legal stop according to the law. And all he's saying is it's one of the things he looks for. From what you're saying you do, I think you'd be safe.

     
  • posted at 10:46 am on Tue, Apr 13, 2010.

    Posts:

    gray cloud:I have to disagree with you on one point. Traffic control officers primary job is NOT to raise money for the city. Think back over the years as to how many times people have been killed because they were driving to fast. Now think of how many people have been killed, pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers, all because someone was in a hurry. Driving the speed limit might be annoying, but because it is the accepted social standard, there is safty. It is when people break this standard that many lives are lost/ruined.Getting a ticket is highly annoying but I'd rather get a ticket than have no officers out there to make sure everyone else is following social standards. I seriously doubt an "honor system" would work for the roads And unless you advocate a big brother type society where cameras are everywhere to watch how we drive then traffic officers are the best way to keep us safe. I'd like to see the fines go up, maybe even post what the fines are on the road so people know what it will cost them.

     
  • posted at 2:49 pm on Mon, Apr 12, 2010.

    Posts:

    I am a supporter of the police departments, hwy patrol, prisons and military. But you people have to remember that the purpose of traffic police is to raise money for the city where they are assigned, and the rest of the department's job is to arrive at the scene of a crime, take a report and try to solve who killed your spouse, children and burned your house down. It is a sad arrangement, but it is very accurate. Your best defense is to be armed and skilled, loaded and accurate. You can dispatch a murderer long before your 911 call is routed to the right city. It is sad but true also.

     
  • posted at 1:08 pm on Mon, Apr 12, 2010.

    Posts:

    For the good officer's information, I stop a few feet away from the white line at some stop signs and signals to avoid left turn drivers crashing into me by making a fast and reckless turn.

     

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