Creating Impaired Driver General Deterrence
Eight Case Studies of Sustained,
High-Visibility, Impaired-Driving Enforcement

U.S. map showing location of Los angeles CountyCLAREMONT POLICE DEPARTMENT


The Avoid the 50 program is distinguished by its size (the “50” refers to the number of participating law enforcement agencies), and by the commitment to traffic safety exhibited by the managers and officers of a small police department to sustain an important, countywide program.

Los Angeles County is the central component of a major population region that stretches from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Mojave Desert in the east, and from the San Gabriel Mountains in the north to the smaller San Diego Metropolitan Area to the south. Los Angeles County is centralized around its core, the City of Los Angeles, and at the same time, dispersed and fragmented. Many of the communities within Los Angeles County once were suburbs of the City of Los Angeles, but today the county consists of scores of major business districts and cities, each one surrounded by its own suburbs that blend imperceptibly into adjacent communities. There are 88 cities and 140 unincorporated communities within Los Angeles County, ranging in size from the City of Los Angeles with 3.7 million residents to Vernon, located in the interstices of LA’s industrial area, with 95 residents counted by the 2000 Census. Other major cities include Long Beach (population, 472,412), located to the south near the Port of Los Angeles; Glendale (199,430); Pasadena (139,712); Burbank (102,913), located north of downtown LA; Pomona (153,555), near the eastern border of the county; and the cities of Torrance (141,615) and Inglewood (114,959), located to the west, where the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) serves as the region’s major portal to the world.

Nine out of ten residents of the County of Los Angeles live in one of the 88 incorporated cities. People from all over the world, speaking nearly 100 different languages call LA their home. Signs in Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Armenian, and Russian are more common than signs in English in some areas of the county; diversity dates from the origins of the region, when Indians, Blacks, Mestizos, and Spaniards were among the 44 settlers who first arrived from the Mexican provinces of Sonora and Sinaloa in 1781. The Year 2000 Census reports that 45 percent of county residents are Hispanic, 31 percent White, 12 percent Asian, and 10 percent LA county FreewayBlack. The predominance of Hispanic residents reflects both California’s historic origins and the region’s proximity to Mexico; the population’s ethnic diversity also reflects historical factors, but perhaps more important, a culture characterized by intimate familiarity with mobility. The automobile and freeway permit individual mobility and commerce throughout Los Angeles County and are the primary icons of the region. With an area of 4,084 square miles, Los Angeles County is 800 square miles larger than the combined area of the States of Delaware and Rhode Island; and, with more than 10 million residents, it is the most populous county in the Nation – a population larger than 42 of the 50 States. A countywide traffic safety program in Los Angeles is a very large program, indeed.

The Avoid the 50 program was conceived by the Traffic Committee of the Peace Officer’s Association of Los Angeles County and then proposed to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). OTS initially selected a police department to administer the new program, but the agency did not provide the staff to manage the DUI enforcement portion of the grant and looked to the Traffic Committee for a grant manager. In response, Captain Paul Cooper, then a lieutenant with the Claremont Police Department, volunteered to develop the operations plan and schedule, and to assume the reporting requirements for the enforcement components of the grant. He began by dividing the county into seven geographic regions and then contacting law enforcement agencies within each region to recruit personnel to serve as program coordinators. Captain Cooper explained that the coordinators would be responsible for enlisting the participation of agencies in their region, providing program information and operating procedures, and monitoring the performance of program-related tasks. He prepared an operations plan that described the program’s goals and objectives and specified how the special enforcement operations should be conducted. In this plan, administration and scheduling of program activities were centralized and all enforcement operations and accounting functions guided by established procedures. The details concerning logistics, communications, and enforcement areas were left to the discretion of the individual region coordinators.

Map of los Angeles County.
Los Angeles County

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office agreed to be the host agency for the second year, because a large agency could afford to pay large sums for program labor in advance of reimbursement from the California Office of Traffic Safety. When Captain Cooper learned that the Sheriff’s Office failed to reapply for the grant for 2003, he convinced California OTS managers to provide interim funding to continue the important enforcement operations of the program while he applied for a new Avoid grant, this time with the 40-officer Claremont Police Department as the host agency. Located 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, the City of Claremont is best known for its tree-lined streets, historic buildings, and quiet college campuses. But more than that, this city of only 36,000 residents is the jurisdiction of a police department with a sincere commitment to traffic safety. There are many larger cities in the county that would be capable of hosting this type of grant, but the Claremont Police Department, City Council, and City Manager are committed to reducing fatalities and injuries from drinking drivers and believe the Avoid the 50 program is a means to accomplish that objective. The Claremont City Council agreed to provide, from the city’s general fund, up to $585,000 over the 18 months of the Avoid the 50 – Teen Choices grant period, in order to sustain the countywide program Image of downtown Los Angeles.between quarterly reimbursements from the California Office of Traffic Safety. In addition to providing the required credit, accounting, and administration for the program, Claremont also provided the leadership necessary for program success.

The region coordinators ensure that all agencies participate in the special enforcement operations, as scheduled, and must quickly fill any patrol vacancies that arise. The coordinators provide supervision and direction within their region during the deployments, then fax the enforcement statistics and overtime slips to the Claremont Police Department at the conclusion of each operation. The participating agencies in each of the seven regions conduct joint operations, including periodic sobriety checkpoints and monthly saturation Image of downtown Los Angeles.patrols in which officers from neighboring communities work together, two officers per patrol vehicle. The practice of teaming officers from different agencies in a large-scale, long-duration, countywide program is unusual and contributes to public awareness of the special enforcement program. The practice also provides opportunities for officers to share information about tactics and procedures.

In addition to the impaired-driving patrols, two special “warrant arrest” operations have been scheduled that target DUI violators who have failed to appear in court.

(Approximately 25 percent of the 1.2 million outstanding felony arrest warrants in Los Angeles County are for DUI.) Two “court stings” also have been scheduled, operations that place an undercover

Image of the City of Claremont in Los Angeles County

The City of Claremont in
Los Angeles County

officer in courtrooms where criminal arraignments for DUI are conducted. The undercover officer sends a message to uniformed officers waiting in the parking lot when a violator with a suspended license leaves the courtroom. If the person attempts to drive, he or she is arrested for driving on a suspended license and the vehicle is impounded for 30 days under Section 14602.6 of the California Vehicle Code.

In each of the seven regions, an average of one, eight-hour impaired driving patrol is conducted per month, with the hours of operation in each of the seven regions determined by the local regional coordinators. Sobriety checkpoints are conducted occasionally throughout the year in each region to create additional public awareness and contribute to the general deterrence effects of the Avoid the 50 program. For example, seven special patrol deployments, two sobriety checkpoints, two court sting operations, and two warrant arrest details were scheduled in each region during the months of May through December 2004. The program’s 2004 education component included 14 “Mini DUI Expos” and 7 real DUI court trials at high schools, 20 traffic safety presentations to various community groups throughout the seven enforcement regions (e.g., employee groups, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions Club, PTA), 12 MADD Victim Impact Panels for Teens and their parents, and the development of 5 professionally produced traffic safety videos for use in public presentations and for distribution to Traffic Committee member agencies. This is the fourth year of sustained operations.

The seven regions of the Avoid the 50 program are composed of between 4 and 14 communities. Captain Cooper’s region includes the cities of Claremont, La Verne, Pomona, Glendora, Azuza, and Covina, six communities with a combined area of 90 square miles and a combined population of 350,000. The special DUI patrols are conducted by at least one officer from each agency, supplemented by reserve officers and supervisors (approximately 10 officers in Captain Cooper’s region) and focus on areas of approximately 25 square miles. Each of the seven regions within Los Angeles County receives proportionately the same impaired-driving enforcement effort during each monthly operation. That is, at least 50 officers and an unknown number of reservists have been deployed in the past for each special operation within the member communities throughout the county. Ten agencies in the South Bay region have departed the program to form a separately funded task force. However, the member agencies of the Avoid the 50 program have retained the program’s well-known name and still attempt to deploy at least 50 sworn officers for each impaired-driving patrol. More than 100 special patrols and sobriety checkpoints are conducted each year throughout Los Angeles County by the member agencies of the Avoid the 50 program.

Image of officers, the  Claremont police department.

Press conferences are held periodically to generate news coverage of the Avoid the 50 program. For example, three press conference/media events were held between September 2003 and June 2004. The seven regional program coordinators attempt to conduct their special deployments on the same weekends to maximize public awareness of the enforcement effort. The Avoid the 50 program issues at least two press releases each month, one to announce an impending operation and one to report the results. The following acknowledgment is included in all press materials, “Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.” The program has been mentioned many times in Los Angeles newspapers and on radio and television stations, including all of the major networks and Spanish-language channels that broadcast to nearly all of Southern California and are carried by cable beyond the region. In addition to the innovative and aggressive enforcement operations, officers from the Avoid the 50 member agencies conduct driving simulations, demonstrations, presentations to community groups, and DUI court trials at high schools and community events to educate young drivers about the risks associated with impaired driving and inform them of the special enforcement program.

The Avoid the 50 program recently received grant funds to purchase a multi-purpose trailer to facilitate DUI traffic education and enforcement activities. The trailer may be used by any law enforcement agency in Los Angeles County to transport the equipment necessary to conduct sobriety checkpoints, and it stores and transports the two electric GEM Cars purchased previously by the Avoid the 50 program to conduct the Mini DUI Expos and driving simulations. The trailer also is equipped with media capabilities for educational presentations.

Image of large white Los Angeles Countywide Traffic Committe Trailer.
The Avoid the 50 program’s Multi-Purpose DUI Education Trailer.

Jan Nichols, whose daughter was killed in a crash involving a drunk driver, was executive director of the Peace Officer’s Association of Los Angeles County when the Avoid the 50 program was conceived. She has helped many agencies prepare proposals for traffic safety grants during the past two decades and wrote the initial proposal to the California Office of Traffic Safety that resulted in the Avoid the 50 program. The California Office of Traffic Safety continues to support the program, but each agency is expected to contribute officer labor and other resources to the special enforcement and education components of the program.

The principal lessons derived from the Avoid the 50 program are presented in three categories. The first concerns some of the obstacles that were encountered and the actions taken in response, followed by a discussion of the features that are believed to contribute to the success of the program. Specific suggestions from the organizers of the program are presented third.

Consistent participation.
The most difficult obstacles encountered during the Avoid the 50 program have been the constraints on consistent participation by all agencies. Traffic operations are often the first activities to be cut by law enforcement managers during periods of heavy workload or when agencies are short on personnel or funds. For example, one particular agency temporarily reassigned all of its traffic officers to patrol because of staffing issues; the agency could not provide personnel to the special enforcement program, even on an overtime basis.

Contractual issues.
The various agreements and labor contracts among the participating agencies made it impossible to deal with each one individually. The solution was to reimburse agencies for officers’ overtime labor, but not for benefits. The Avoid the 50 program pays a flat rate under contracts arranged with each agency. All that is necessary is to multiply the number of hours worked by the agency’s contracted pay rate to calculate the amount of that agency’s reimbursement. Limiting payment to direct labor costs greatly streamlined the process, eliminated a source of error and confusion, and reduced the burden of performing the accounting tasks.

Radio communications in Los Angeles County can be problematic because of the many different frequencies used by the participating law enforcement agencies. The solution to this problem was to delegate responsibility for establishing protocols that permit inter-agency communications to the seven region coordinators.

Scheduling the education component.
The captain reports that the scheduling of countywide special enforcement operations is not particularly difficult once the procedures have been established, coordinators recruited, and the process set into motion. However, the scheduling of individual education activities can be difficult because the Avoid the 50 program does not reimburse the participating agencies for officer labor devoted to presentations, demonstrations, and other educational activities. The varying levels of commitment among the agencies have required the Claremont Police Department to extend itself considerably to meet the program’s goals.

It also can be difficult to obtain permission to conduct special activities at local schools. There is much that must be accomplished during a school year and few school administrators are able to schedule time for outside organizations to present demonstrations or training, even about a topic as important as traffic safety. The organizers of the Avoid the 50 program have found that it requires patience and a good relationship with school district administrators and on site principals to obtain the cooperation necessary to conduct effective traffic safety education activities in schools.

The primary strengths of the Avoid the 50 program are the simultaneous, countywide, impaired-driving enforcement operations, the tracking of enforcement statistics, and the accounting necessary to reimburse the many agencies for their participation. A further strength of the program is the willingness of the participating agencies to work together to address an important social problem. The managers and officers of the Avoid the 50 program sincerely believe that impaired driving is not a local issue that can be solved by the actions and policies of an individual community. The Avoid the 50 program’s cooperative, countywide special enforcement and education activities are based on the understanding that DUI is a problem that transcends jurisdictional boundaries.

It is difficult to conduct the program’s educational activities and to meet the educational objectives because of the enormous scale of the program. It might be better to continue conducting the enforcement program as a countywide effort, but provide mini grants to individual agencies to support educational activities. The educational components of the program require strong support and buy-in, which can be lacking from agencies when they are not immediately responsible for planning and implementing the activities. Grants to individual agencies might foster the necessary commitment and support to accomplish the educational objectives.

Image of police motorcycles.The program organizers encourage anyone interested in implementing a large-scale traffic safety program to first form a regional Traffic Committee that includes law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, educators, and representatives of advocate groups, the PTA, and others who seek to improve traffic safety in their communities. The long-term success of the Los Angeles Countywide Traffic Committee is built on a history of mutual aid and friendships that have been developed during monthly meetings and by working together on projects such as the Avoid the 50 program.

The crash data summarized in the following table show that the number of alcohol-related injury crashes in Los Angeles County declined by 34 percent between the years 2002 and 2003, compared to an increase of more than 6 percent nationwide. The table and following figure also show that alcohol-related fatal crashes declined by 56 percent during the same period, compared to declines of less than 2 percent in California and 3 percent nationwide.






Los Angeles County




Alcohol-Related Injury Crashes




Alcohol-Related Fatal Crashes












Alcohol-Related Injury Crashes




Alcohol-Related Fatal Crashes








U.S.A *




Alcohol-Related Injury Crashes




Alcohol-Related Fatal Crashes




Data Sources: California Integrated Statewide Record System, 2002; NCSA 2003 Annual Assessment

Chart showing the percent in alcohol-related fatal crashes in Los Angeles County, California, and the USA 2002-2003.Image of a Claremont Officer's Police badge.

Captain Paul Cooper
Claremont Police Department
207 North Harvard Avenue
Claremont, CA 91711