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Avoid campaign sets to catch DUI offenders

December 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Celebrating the holidays kicks into high gear this weekend and so do the DUI patrols. Law enforcement is out in force as penalties get ready to triple for chronic drunk drivers. One checkpoint was set up in San Mateo on Peninsula Avenue.

Police say nearly one third of all accidents in California are caused by DUIs and they're hoping a new law that takes effect Jan. 1 reduces that number.

The Avoid campaign has begun over the Bay Area. In Marin County, police set up their checkpoint early. By 6 p.m. drivers were being asked if they've had anything to drink. In Marin County it's called "Avoid the 13." That's 13 cities that will have expanded DUI patrols on Friday night. There have been 791 people who lost their lives to drunk drivers in California in 2010, the last year for which numbers are available.

In San Mateo County, police and Assm. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, are kicking off "Avoid the 23." Hill says that with 300,000 Californian's having three or more DUIs, he thought tougher legislation was necessary. He wrote the law.

"Jan. 1st at midnight if you're convicted of your third or more DUIs, or greater, a judge could take away your license for 10 years now," said Hill.

The prior penalty was two to three years and you could get your license back. Sgt. Orourke sees the new law as a potential life saver.

"The safer we can make the streets the better. If it takes 10 years of somebody not driving to save a life on the street it's worth it," said Orourke.

"This could take 10,000 drivers, 10,000 repeat DUI offenders, off the road," said Hill.

As San Mateo police officers from 23 cities prepare to take the streets, there was talk about the DUI accidents. Nearly one third of all crashes, they say, are DUI related. The new law is welcomed by Natasha Thomas with MADD -- Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. She actually believes anyone who has three of more DUIs should face even stiffer penalties.

"We think that someone who hasn't learned their lesson and you know has one or two should be held accountable and should not be able to drive, but unfortunately were taking one step at a time," said Thomas.

Police in San Mateo said there had already been one DUI arrest as of 11 p.m. Friday. They also say if you have to ask someone if they're alright to drive, you have an answer. They suggest taking designated drivers with you this holiday season. The Avoid campaign goes through Jan. 2.


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