SACRAMENTO, Calif., Dec. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- As millions of Californians are expected to hit the roads during the holiday travel season, state traffic safety officials continue to warn motorists about the very serious dangers of impaired driving. The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) today announced nearly $5 million in grant funding to 110 law enforcement agencies for DUI checkpoints. OTS is funding over 2100 sobriety checkpoints during the next year, with more than 230 to take place December 17, 2010 through January 2, 2011 as part of the Holiday DUI Enforcement Campaign, Report Drunk Drivers. Call 911.
"We are continuing the substantial effort to deter and arrest drunk drivers that has had such a tremendous impact on traffic safety in California," said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy. "DUI checkpoints are proven as the most effective DUI countermeasure and we are continuing to support those enforcement efforts statewide, particularly in the 'Top 50 DUI Cities' in California."
Alcohol-impaired fatalities have declined substantially in recent years – down 26 percent since 2006 when OTS and law enforcement began placing increased emphasis and funding toward sobriety checkpoints. DUI deaths declined by 7.6 percent in California between 2008 and 2009 alone.
"The holiday season is all about having a good time with family and friends. The California Highway Patrol wants to make sure the roadway is safe for you and your loved ones. As such, we will have a highly visible presence during this Maximum Enforcement Period. The CHP and other law enforcement agencies will ensure safe travel for everyone by enforcing speed, seat belt, and driving under the influence violations," said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. "Please plan ahead if you plan to drink. Designate a driver or call a taxi. If you see a drunk driver, call 911."
OTS will fund checkpoint operations by CHP and regional 'Avoid' DUI Task Force programs spanning 42 counties and more than 400 local police departments. Special efforts will continue to target California's "Top 50 DUI Cities." More than 1,000 OTS-funded DUI checkpoints were conducted in the 'Top 50 DUI Cities' in FFY 2010, with another 828 planned for 2011.
Convicted first-time drunk drivers in four California counties, including Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare, will also have ignition interlock devices (IID) installed in their vehicles for at least five months. Previously reserved for repeat DUI offenders, traffic safety officials hope the required IIDs will help further reduce injuries and fatalities from alcohol-related crashes. The four-county pilot program, which began July 1, is being tested through 2015.
"In addition to being a festive time of year to celebrate with family and friends, the holidays are unfortunately a dangerous time out on the roads," said Murphy. "Winter weather and hazardous road conditions, combined with drunk and often distracted drivers, require vigilance on the part of motorists."
The state's traffic safety and transportation departments are also working together on multiple enforcement and public education fronts focusing on drunk driving, with OTS, CHP, Caltrans, Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) all taking part.
The reduction of impaired driving-related fatalities is Challenge Area Number One of California's Strategic Highway Safety Plan, a collaboration of state, federal and local agencies along with industry and advocate organizations, with the goal of significantly reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from traffic safety crashes.
Private sector partners include 115 Raley's Supermarket and 59 Papa Murphy's Pizza locations in northern California, promoting the Plan Ahead. Designate a Sober Driver message during the holiday season, along with sports and entertainment partners, the Golden State Warriors and Live Nation Entertainment.
For a list of the "Top 50 DUI Cities" visit www.ots.ca.gov.
Editors' note: To schedule an interview regarding holiday impaired driving efforts, upcoming sobriety checkpoints and other DUI programs in California, please contact Chris Cochran at (916) 509-3063 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE California Office of Traffic Safety