Report a drunk driver, get $100 cash from Safety Council of Palm Beach County
Angel Streeter, Sun Sentinel
9:00 AM, Dec 31, 2012
5:55 PM, Dec 31, 2012
PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. -- This is the time of year when roads can be more perilous as holiday revelers imbibe and then decide to drive.
That's why law enforcement throughout Florida will be aggressively looking for and arresting drivers who are under the influence. But in Palm Beach County, residents are also being enlisted in the DUI battle.
Their reward is not only safer roads but also cash.
For more than a decade, the Safety Council of Palm Beach County has run the "Mobile Eyes" program. People who report a drunken driver can receive $100 if the driver is arrested.
The program has led to hundreds of arrests over the years since it began in 2001. Every year, Mobile Eyes hands out 30 to 40 cash rewards.
But this year, the reports haven't been coming in at the same rate. So far, only 17 rewards have been handed out this year. Officials are concerned people may have forgotten the program exists, and a renewed push is being made to let drivers know about Mobile Eyes.
"We thought the holidays was a great time to remind people," said Donna Bryan, spokeswoman for the safety council. "Just getting one (drunken driver) off the road is a good thing."
The Palm Beach County Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is regularly promoting the program at its victim impact panels.
People often report suspect drivers after a crash occurs, said Diego Asencio, a longtime MADD volunteer. That's encouraging, but the damage already has been done.
"The idea is to get them before the crash happens," he said.
Programs like Mobile Eyes, law enforcement and DUI prevention efforts have made a difference, Asencio said.
Alcohol-related traffic crashes and deaths have been on the decline since 2009 in Palm Beach County. In 2009, 62 people died from alcohol-related crashes in the county. Last year, there were 47.
Statewide, 1,004 people died from alcohol-related crashes in 2009, compared to 920 last year.
"The deaths are going down," Asencio said. "But we still have a lot of work to do."
That's especially true during the holidays. Among the deadliest times of the year on the road are between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.
People are attending parties and dinners and consuming more alcohol than they normally would.
Sgt. Nicole Guerriero, spokeswoman for the Delray Beach Police Department, said law enforcement depends on residents to work with them to keep their community safe.
"We always say we need someone else to be our eyes and ears," she said. "We need someone to tell us about unsafe drivers."
The Mobile Eyes program works simply. If residents spot an impaired driver, they call 911 and an officer is dispatched. If an arrest is made, the police fill out a Mobile Eyes report that is sent to the safety council. The person who reported the impaired driver then gets $100.
Guerriero said people should not try to interact or stop an impaired driver. That could be dangerous.
Instead, they should follow behind at a safe distance, call the police and provide the vehicle's tag number and where the driver is heading.