Last Year, Santa Rosa’s Top Cop Took 101 Drunk Drivers Off the Road

Just how many drunk drivers are on the road at any one time? It’s hard to know, and scary to think about.  The FBI estimates that each day about 300,000 people drive drunk. Fewer than 4,000 of those are arrested.

The statistics aren’t ones to fill one with confidence. But every day police all over the country embrace the Sisyphean task of taking impaired drivers off the roads. That is why Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) honors law enforcement officers who do an especially good job of catching drunk drivers.

Officer Ken FerrignoMADD held the California awards dinner at the state capital last week. One of the stars of the evening was Ken Ferrigno, a Santa Rosa police officer who bagged 101 DUIs last year.

101 is a lot of drivers, and we salute Officer Ferrigno for his perseverance and dedication. He richly deserves his award.

But the sheer number of arrests is proof that enforcement alone is not the answer. Officer Ferrigno and his colleagues need some help, and we can all work to promote reforms which will help prevent drunk driving before it happens.

  • Alternatives to driving: In our car-centered culture, public transport gets short shrift, but it’s an important element in any effort to reduce the carnage on the roads.
  • Assessment and Treatment: When drunk drivers are caught, in addition to any punishments they should be assessed and, if necessary, treated for alcohol dependency.
  • All-Offender Ignition Interlock Laws: Currently 24 states mandate ignition interlocks, or car breathalzyers, for the vehicles of all DUI offenders, even first offenders. This measure is known for bringing down the numbers of alcohol-related road deaths dramatically.
  • Ignition Interlock Enforcement. In many municipalities ignition interlocks are ordered but follow-up is lacking, so offenders manage to avoid installing the device. Safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that the device has been installed. One of the most effective ways to do this is through a system of sobriety courts, which supervise treatment and also ensure that the interlock is installed and used. Sobriety courts are an excellent and effective alternative to incarceration for many drunk drivers.

Until these reforms are adopted, Officer Ferrigno will continue to have his hands full.