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Velvet vigilantes hit the Florida streets

27 September, 2007
Drink driving is a serious problem in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, a problem which is being tackled through an unusual public vigilance campaign.
Hillsborough County in Florida is home to Tampa bay, alligators, cruise liners and an appalling record for drink driving with over 6000 arrests for DUI (driving under the influence of drink or drugs) in 2006 â€" that's about 16 people a day in one county alone. Not surprisingly, it also has the worst record in the state for fatal road accidents.

Hillsborough is now proposing cuts in property taxes which is expected to lead to corresponding cuts in police spending so instead of focussing on solving the problem, an organisation of authorised vigilantes has been set up called MADD (Mothers against drunk driving) who will be trained to recognise the signs of a drunk driver and call the police when they spot one â€" a mad idea worthy of the group's equally mad name.

In their defence, the police in Hillborough County have been trying to tackle this problem for a long time and have set up checkpoints at the main accident black spots and places where a convincing haul of drunk drivers can normally be netted but it isn't solving the problem and if the 2006 statistics are anything to go by, its getting worse. Nobody wants drunk drivers on the street and we would welcome any effective means of reducing it but launching a squad of willing amateurs onto the streets and cutting the budget of the professionals is as farcical as "Police Academy".

Maybe a look at the reasons why there are so many drunks behind the wheel would yield better results. Hillsborough County doesn't just comprise the big towns of Tampa and St Petersburg, there are smaller places too like Wimauma which also happens to be one of the favourite places for catching drunks.

Wimauma is about 20 miles south of Tampa, where there is precious little public transport and flagging a taxi is almost impossible â€" The official Hillsborough County website states "..this area is not generally considered a flagging taxicab market". You can order a taxi of course which will probably come from Tampa at a rate of $2.25 per mile which is the standard county rate.

So maybe if the MADD members installed meters in their cars they could be even more effective.

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