In advance of the Labor Day holiday, a host of law enforcement officials gathered outside the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department on Friday to send a strong message to the public about the dangers of drinking and driving.
“Drive sober, or get pulled over,” was the message from Undersheriff Jim Peterson and other law enforcement officials standing around him from agencies such as the Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Guadalupe police departments, the UCSB Police Department and others that make up the 12 agencies united in the “Avoid the 12” enforcement effort against driving under the influence.
State Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, Raymond Morua from Rep. Lois Capps' office, District Attorney Joyce Dudley and Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves were also in attendance Friday.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration designates four of the most dangerous driving times throughout the year, based on traffic and collision numbers, and awards grants for extra enforcement.
Peterson said a $130,000 grant from the NHTSA will allow local law enforcement to conduct extra patrols, warrant sweeps, checkpoints and other enforcement efforts starting this Friday through Sept. 2.
Senior Deputy Jeff Farmer said there were 2,481 DUI arrests in Santa Barbara County last year.
During the Labor Day period in 2011, there were 200 DUI arrests and one fatality, Farmer said, though that number of arrests went down last year and there were no fatalities.
He said people should plan a safe way home before they know they’ll be drinking.
“I can’t tell you how many drivers I’ve arrested that said they were the designated drivers,” Farmer said.
If residents see anyone they suspect may be driving drunk on the road, they should call 9-1-1 and report the person immediately, he said.
Jackson also spoke, noting that the costs of being charged with DUI are “enormous.” A first-time DUI can cost up to $13,500, she said, when attorney’s fees, the increased cost of insurance and all the costs resulting from the stop add up.
“It is so much cheaper to take a cab,” she said.
Assemblyman Das Williams said drunken driving is always avoidable, and Dudley stressed that an automobile is a deadly weapon, and that her office would not hesitate to prosecute those charged with DUI crimes.
Sgt. Mike McGrew told Noozhawk that police would be conducting two DUI checkpoints in Santa Barbara this Friday and Saturday.