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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 11:57 am | Fair 62º


Officials Urge Driving Safety As Thousands Hit Santa Barbara Roads This Holiday Season

Law enforcement, elected officials urge motorists to avoid driving under the influence and distracted driving, announce increase in DUI checkpoints

Local law enforcement will be stepping up DUI patrols and checkpoints during the holidays, said Mark D’Arelli, commander of the Santa Barbara area California Highway Patrol. Click to view larger
Local law enforcement will be stepping up DUI patrols and checkpoints during the holidays, said Mark D’Arelli, commander of the Santa Barbara area California Highway Patrol. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

With folks relatives hitting the road to visit family for the holidays, the end of the year is one of the busiest times for Santa Barbara County and California roadways.

The holidays are also a time with parties and increased alcohol consumption.

Due to the extra dangers that can accompany driving this time of year, local law enforcement and elected officials are urging drivers to play it safe this season.

“At a time of celebration, we must remember prevention is so critical so that this doesn’t turn into a time of heartbreak for our community and for our families,” said state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) at a traffic safety press conference Tuesday at the California Highway Patrol office at 6465 Calle Real in Goleta.

“We have a responsibility when we get behind the wheel of a car.”

Jackson and CHP officials were joined by Santa Barbara state Assemblywoman Monique Limón, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley and a cadre of local law enforcement representatives to discuss the dangers of distracted driving and driving under the influence.

Law enforcement will be stepping up local patrols and checkpoints to combat these risks, said Mark D’Arelli, commander of the Santa Barbara-area CHP Office.

More than 1,000 Californians are killed every year in alcohol-related accidents, D’Arelli said, and in 2014, over 23,000 were injured by intoxicated drivers.

Over 64,000 DUI arrests were made in the state in 2015.

Some 30 or so DUI checkpoints in the greater Santa Barbara area were held by various law enforcement agencies this year, officials said.

In addition to local residents, the area’s roads are heavily travelled by visitors and tourists, D’Arelli said.

“We’re always concerned with Santa Barbara roadways, because they are unique. We’re kind of a gateway to Northern and Southern California.”

Anyone drinking, officials said, should always name a designated driver or find alternative transportation.

D’Arelli said the sometimes-uncomfortable circumstance of telling an inebriated friend or relative not to drive is really an act of love for that person and the surrounding community, and shouldn’t be ignored.

Dangerous driving conditions include not wearing a seatbelt, feeling tired or inattentive, using a cell phone, or being under the influence of prescription drugs, Jackson said.

Come Jan. 1, she added, California drivers will be prohibited from handling or operating handheld electronic devices when behind the wheel. Only devices mounted on the dashboard or windshield can be used, and only if it entails a single tap or swipe of the finger.

“Education is so very important with law enforcement and our public-safety personnel,” D’Arelli said. “That’s a huge component; we have to have the public’s involvement in traffic safety.

“Otherwise, we could go out there every day and do our jobs, but people are still going to die. So unless it’s a partnership between all of us, then it doesn’t work.”

One successful example, he noted, has been the close collaboration between law enforcement and students in Isla Vista, whose give their peers warnings when they’re at risk of receiving various citations.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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