According to department statistics, 33 people died in auto collisions during the 2013 Thanksgiving weekend. That number was down from 44 the previous year, and officials were determined to see another decline. This year, over 3.5 million southern Californians travelled at least 50 miles away from home; Las Vegas was the most popular destination.
The four-day weekend is one of the most heavily traveled periods of the year.
Strategic (or Sustained) Traffic Enforcement Programs are periods of intense law-enforcement activity designed to discourage a specific driving habit, such as driving without a seat belt, speeding or DUI. The theory is that motorists are naturally inclined to ignore traffic laws, but their fear of punishment outweighs their natural lawlessness.
The Illinois plan is a fairly typical example of a STEP campaign. Local law enforcement agencies are on heightened alert on six major holiday weekends, and six other weekends of the department's choice. The state pays for officer overtime, advertisement expenses, additional officer training and any other costs associated with the STEP enforcement.
The main problem with these campaigns is that they feed the beast. These programs can be rather expensive in overtime alone, and when the officers go to court for a traffic ticket, they are generally on overtime again. That creates pressure for officers in Lamont and Shafter to write more speeding tickets. Furthermore, an officer may be under pressure to write citations for incidents when a warning would be more appropriate, which undermines the relationship between peace officers and the people they are supposed to protect.