To warn, or not to warn?
While scrolling though one of the various Rifle-related Facebook pages this past week, I stumbled upon a post that caught my attention, and the attention of a couple of other Facebook users.
The original post simply stated that there were three Colorado State Patrol troopers by the Rifle-Garfield County Airport. It was posted April 19, one day before what is commonly recognized as the unofficial marijuana holiday.
Within eight hours, the post generated 82 comments, many of which came from a few people engaged in a lively debate on the pros and cons of alerting others to law enforcement’s location. One person commented that simply knowing that the police are out in large numbers might make a person think twice before driving impaired. Another said that it could lead impaired drivers to simply take a different route. As I read through the comments, I recalled similar discussions whenever the Cincinnati Enquirer would post the location of DUI check points in my home town. In both instances, neither side offered much, if any, evidence to support their claim, likely because there has been almost no research on the matter.
It is a complicated issue, said Rifle Police Chief John Dyer. The general consensus among law enforcement agencies is that awareness is a good thing. Numerous reports conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration note the benefits of increased visibility and awareness in combating impaired driving. A report from 2013 stated, “Among the most successful strategies is the coupling of intense and highly visible enforcement with publicity about the enforcement campaign.” The theory applies to law enforcement in general, Dyer said. Publicity is a key factor in many of the Rifle Police Department’s campaigns, from seatbelt use to speeding. “Increased awareness in turn leads to a public perception that the risk of detection has been elevated,” he said.
However, there is the concern that if people know law enforcement is concentrated in one area then they could chose to simply avoid the area, Dyer said. “I’m sensitive to that side of it as well.”
It’s a dilemma with real and important consequences. From 2003-20012, 1,702 people in Colorado were killed in car crashes involving a drunken driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So until the jury returns with a verdict on this topic, do us all a favor and stay off the roads if you’ve had a couple drinks or a toke.
Ryan Hoffman is editor of The Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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