Q: Can you describe the impact the SJSO DUI unit is having on traffic safety?
A: I’d like to recognize our achievements as historic lows in traffic crashes and fatal crashes are predicted for our county this year. We are on track this year to have a 71 percent decrease in total crashes and a 55 percent decrease in fatal crashes and I believe a lot of this is due to the hard work of our DUI unit. We used to average 30 traffic-related deaths per year in the county and for the past two years, we’ve averaged 20 per year, despite our continually growing population.
Q: What can you tell us about the DUI unit?
A: We have three full time deputies (one is a corporal) and one part time. All of the deputies in this unit are also Drug Recognition Experts or DRE. This certification and standard is hard to maintain and we are third in the state, behind only Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, in having three or more DRE within our DUI unit.
At a recent Mothers Against Drunk Driving awards event, we were nominated for Best DUI Unit in a Large Urban Area. Our DUI corporal received an award for more than 1,000 career DUIs and the corporal and one of the deputies received awards for more than 100 DUI arrests in 2022. They were both also nominated for DUI officer of the year, so they have been recognized for their expertise.
Q: What are the duties of the DUI unit?
A: Our DUI unit falls under the Traffic Division, so besides the day-to-day DUI enforcement duties (a deputy can call in the DUI unit anytime there is a crash or erratic driving and the deputy suspects impairment), the DUI unit is responsible for maintaining the Intoxilyzer machine, which measures blood alcohol content. We keep our primary machines in the booking area of the jail, but we also have portable ones for the DUI unit. Our DUI deputies are also responsible for the training on impairment that all of our deputies are required to take. As DREs they provide statewide training on DUI instruction and are also qualified as expert witnesses in the courtroom.
Q: What is the key takeaway you’d like our readers to have?
A: The SJSO is saving lives, according to statistics, but we also strive to educate the public about how many options there are to not drive while impaired (either with alcohol or drugs). Ridesharing is readily available and people can also call our non-emergency number and we can call a ride or a taxi for you. We want to get people home alive. There is just no reason to drink and drive.
Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you with any questions or suggestions about this article?
A: They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (904) 824-8304. Also, our website, www.sjso.org has a wealth of resources, from alarm registration to Crime Stoppers to our Neighbors app.