Call them bribes or call them incentives, but either way, efforts to curb drunken driving and related traffic incidents are working, officials at Naval Air Station Sigonella say.

Programs such as rewarding designated drivers with liberty passes and gift certificates helped cut the number of driving-under-the-influence incidents by more than half last year compared with 2003, base spokesman Lt. Steve Curry said.

In 2004, base officials logged 24 DUI incidents, down from 58 the year before, Curry said.

“We have incentive programs like pushing the designated driver program. If a designated driver comes back on base and tells the gate guard he’s the designated driver, he gets a coupon good toward prizes,” Curry said. Prizes include gift certificates and Morale, Welfare and Recreation coupons on service trips, for example.

The final tally of vehicle collisions also is down, Curry said. Safety officials reported 176 fewer collisions — a drop from 751 in 2003 to 575 in 2004.

“It’s a lot less than the year before, but we still have a ways to go,” Curry said.

One incident last year resulted in a death, and safety officials reported 96 injuries. The base has a population of 6,700, of which about 3,200 are active-duty servicemembers. Of the Sigonella residents, the base has 3,669 registered drivers.

In the fall, base commander Capt. Joe Stuyvesant started a program to reward departments that had no alcohol-related incidents in a 96-day period, including those behind the wheel or a drunk-in-public charge. Departments with no incidents received a 96-hour liberty. The first staffers to earn the reward were those in Sigonella’s Executive Administration and Weapons and Operations departments.

With safety messages and fliers blanketing the base and public service announcements on television and radio stations, officials also have reported an increase in peer pressure to drive sober, drive safe, and buckle up, Curry said.

At the beginning of 2004, officials instituted a slew of new traffic laws and programs to cut back on the then-20 percent increase in traffic accidents between 2002 and 2003. Drivers faced suspended privileges and traffic court appearances in addition to having points assessed on their driving records.

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