More than just party lights were flashing this Cinco de Mayo as the Yolo County Avoid the 8 DUI Taskforce saturated the streets of West Sacramento, Davis and Woodland.
On May 5, the Avoid Taskforce conducted 52 vehicle stops. Nine drivers were put through a series of field sobriety tests. Four drivers were arrested for suspicion of driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Six drivers received other various vehicle code violation citations.
“There is definitely an increase of drunk drivers when people go out and party,” said California Highway Patrol Sergeant Dan Seaman. “It’s important to have a designated driver before you go out and drink.”
Avoid the 8 is a countywide program sponsored by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The program is part of an effort to lower the deaths and injuries related to drunk driving.
“Our main efforts have been focusing on reducing the death rate from drunk driving,” said Chris Cochran, spokesperson for the California Office of Traffic Safety.
The grant for the program amounts to just over $269,635 and is used to fund law enforcement operations such as saturation patrols and DUI checkpoints.
“The DUI checkpoints are well-publicized and are used as a deterrent for drunk drivers so they don’t drive intoxicated in the first place,” Cochran said. “The saturation patrols are used to catch those people who didn’t get the message and chose to drive drunk anyway.”
Although DUI related crash rates have dropped as much as 25 percent in recent years with increased prevention efforts, drunk driving remains a significant problem, causing 30-40 percent of all vehicle crashes. In 2008 alone, there were 1,029 deaths and 28,457 injured due to alcohol related crashes in California. In Yolo County there were 12 fatal alcohol related crashes in 2008, which accounted for half of all vehicle-related deaths.
Yolo County deployed overtime patrols into city streets and CHP patrolled freeways and unincorporated communities to look for drunk drivers. Forty-two other counties throughout the state have similar programs.
Seaman said everyone must to be sure to drive defensively and call 911 if they encounter a drunk driver.
“Drunk driving is a significant problem and it takes a coordinated effort to address the issue,” Seaman said. “Programs like the Avoid are important because they allow for a collaborative effort between all the law enforcement agencies in a county.”
JANE TEIXEIRA can be reached at email@example.com.