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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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