Drunken and drugged driving remains the No. 1 killer on our roadways, with nearly 800 deaths and more than 24,000 injuries. The “Avoid the 12” DUI Task Force will be attacking this problem head on through DUI enforcement efforts in Santa Barbara County as a result of a recent $130,000 grant awarded by the California Office of Traffic Safety to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, which will administer the grant for the entire county. 

The “Avoid the 12” DUI Task Force is named to send the message that if you don’t drink or use drugs and drive, you will avoid getting arrested by any of the 12 participating law enforcement agencies in the county.

The grant activities will specifically target those who get behind the wheel after drinking too much or using drugs that impair driving. Officers will be staffing DUI/Driver License Checkpoints, multi-agency DUI Task Force deployments, and local DUI saturation patrols for each deployment.

Additionally, funding will target the “worst of the worst” repeat DUI offenders with Warrant/Probation Sweeps and Court Sting Enforcement Operations focusing on DUI offenders who leave court hearings and drive away on suspended licenses after being ordered not to drive by a judge.

“The Avoid DUI Task Forces have been an essential part of the phenomenal reduction in DUI deaths that we witnessed from 2006 to 2010 in California,” said Christopher Murphy, director of the Office of Traffic Safety. “But since the tragedy of DUI accounts for nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities, Santa Barbara County needs the high visibility enforcement and public awareness that this grant will provide.”

A large part of grant funding will go to DUI/Driver’s License Checkpoints — highly visible, highly publicized events not only meant to make arrests, but to deter impaired driving in the first place. Crashes involving alcohol drop by an average of 20 percent when well-publicized checkpoints are conducted often enough.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, checkpoints have provided the most effective documented results of any of the DUI enforcement strategies, while yielding considerable cost savings of $6 for every $1 spent.

Motorists can expect to see special DUI campaigns during the winter and summer holiday periods as well as on Super Bowl Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta and during local special events with identified DUI problems.

Forty-two of California’s counties participate in the AVOID campaigns. They are the largest funded DUI crackdowns in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Funding for the grant comes from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Agencies participating in the Avoid the 12 Task Force include the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Guadalupe Police Department, the Lompoc Police Department, the Santa Barbara Police Department, the Santa Maria Police Department, the UCSB Police Department, the Allan Hancock College Police Department, California State Parks, the California Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control, the U.S. Forest Service and Vandenberg Air Force Base.

— Kevin Huddle is a sergeant for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.