The Berkeley Police Department was awarded a $250,000 grant intended to support the city of Berkeley in its efforts to increase traffic safety by providing funding for enforcement and educational programs.
Announced on Nov. 15, the grant entails a yearlong program of public awareness efforts and special enforcement initiatives to lower the number of traffic-related deaths and injuries. Funding for this program comes from the California Office of Traffic Safety, or OTS, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“The California Office of Traffic Safety administers grants annually,” said Camille Travis, an OTS spokesperson, in an email. “Grants are awarded based on data driven traffic safety problems identified by the organizations applying for funding, as well as a demonstrated ability to show effectiveness in reducing traffic deaths and injuries.”
The grant will fund activities including educational presentations, DUI checkpoints, seat belt and child safety seat enforcement as well as speed, red light and stop sign policing.
BPD has received similar grants from OTS in past years, which were also intended to implement education and special enforcement efforts to lower the number of people killed in car collisions, especially bicyclists and pedestrians. According to the release, the number of people injured in alcohol-related collisions in Berkeley decreased by 5 percent over the 2018 grant year. During this period, the number of DUI arrests also increased by 18 percent as a result of OTS’s funded training programs.
“Thanks to OTS, this grant will help us educate our community, and support our officers’ focused enforcement efforts on unsafe driving behaviors in Berkeley,” BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood said in the release. “The grant will give us the ability to field additional officers to increase safety and reduce collisions in Berkeley.”
OTS also hopes to support BPD in combating the dangers associated with technology and substance use while driving. According to the press release from OTS, the grant will provide opportunities to minimize roadway-related dangers such as pedestrian and bicycle fatalities, which account for nearly 25 percent of traffic-related deaths.
Alcohol remains the most abused substance in DUI crashes, but BPD is collaborating with OTS to broaden the definition of substances warranting a DUI charge to include prescription medication and marijuana. The collaboration between the two departments is part of a campaign titled “DUI Doesn’t Just Mean Booze.”
“Unsafe behaviors account for 94 percent of traffic crashes,” OTS Director Rhonda Craft said in the press release. “This grant emphasizes the two most effective ways to change behaviors – education and enforcement. The Berkeley Police Department, with assistance from the Office of Traffic Safety, will use these tools to help keep the members of the Berkeley community safe.”