Could Cash Incentives for Reporting Garden State DWIs Help NJ Police with Drunken Driving Enforcement?

Most New Jersey drivers already know that state and federal law enforcement and traffic safety groups spends a great deal on anti-drunken driving education and enforcement, especially around the holidays. We can see it constantly; the increased DWI-DUI patrols on our highways and surface streets, more frequent drunk driving roadblocks and sobriety checkpoints…never mind the numerous radio and TV public service announcements aimed at making potential drunken drivers aware of the risks of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated by beer, wine or hard liquor. The word is out: New Jersey is hardly tolerant when it comes to DWI, or even drug DUI (prescription or illegal substances like marijuana).

Whether one is arrested for driving under the influence here in Monmouth County, Passaic, Ocean or Sussex County, the results of a drunk driving conviction can be expensive, inconvenient and even embarrassing. But what if every citizen was encouraged (monetarily) to report fellow drivers that they suspected of driving drunk, or likewise impaired by some kind of prescription medication? It’s happened already, according to news reports, down in the Sunshine State.

Based on a recent article, reporting an allegedly impaired motorist down in Palm Beach County, FL, will apparently yield the caller $100. The program known as “Mobiles Eyes,” which has been in effect for the past decade, was created to get the driving public involved in looking out and reporting potentially drunk drivers. In return, according to news articles, the caller receives payment if that particular motorist is arrested for driving while intoxicated.

As New Jersey drunk driving defense attorneys, we can only wonder if this kind of program could find its way up north and be used to weed out Garden State motorists who may have had a little too much to drink before getting behind the wheel of their car or truck. Based on news reports, the Florida program has resulted in hundreds of drunken driving arrests since it was implemented back in 2001. Apparently it is working to some extent, since authorities have stated that the Mobile Eyes program has paid out, on average, 30 to 40 cash rewards annually.

However, this year the total reward payments has been about half what it usually is. The news item we read stated that only 17 rewards had been given out in 2012. It would appear that local authorities were becoming concerned that the public may have forgotten about the ongoing DWI-DUI reporting program. As a result, they used the holidays to push out their message of cash for arrests. Based on news reports, the local Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) chapter regularly promotes the program during its victim impact panels.

The question arises that if this kind of program has netted hundreds of drunk driving arrests over the past ten years or so in that part of the country, what are the chances that a similar approach might be used right here at home in New Jersey? Being a relatively simple program, it could be easy to implement. The Palm Beach County program allows residents to call 911 when they spot what they feel is a drunken motorist on the road. After that a patrolman is dispatched. If the officer can make an arrest, he or she will also fill out a form for the Mobile Eyes program, which is then forwarded to the local safety council. Eventually, the person who reported the allegedly impaired driver will receive $100 for his or her trouble.

Of course, police officials warn the public to avoid any interaction with the suspected drunk driver, instead advising that the reporter follow behind and at a safe distance, then call police to provide the vehicle’s license information and the direction the driver is headed. After that, the caller just waits to see if they have a hundred dollars coming to them. Simple. But will we ever see it here? Only time will tell.

Report an impaired driver, get $100 in Palm Beach County; Sun-Sentinel.com, December 31, 2012