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Holiday DUIs won't be tolerated

POSTED November 23, 2011 8:26 a.m.
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The Thanksgiving holiday period marks the beginning of the holiday festive season that lasts through Jan. 2, 2012 (the day after the New Year celebration). And for a variety of reasons, none of the least which are the holidays themselves, more social and celebratory alcohol consumption takes place. The shorter number of daylight hours also contributes indirectly because people tend to spend more time indoors, away from the inclement weather. Seasonal depression is a factor that also contributes to increased drinking and drug use. Many people find the holiday season an unpleasant time because of loneliness. And with the high rate of unemployment, a lot of people feel that there is no reason for being joyful during this period. In too many instances, for whatever the reasons, a portion of the population turns to alcohol and other drugs to get them through the tough times.

Instances of driving while intoxicated (DUI) from either alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs, generally increases during the holiday season. The problem of intoxicated motorists on our highways and local streets poses a serious danger to everyone. DUI drivers regularly run into and injure or kill other motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and skateboarders and sometimes even their own passengers. The problem is so serious and deadly that various groups like MADD and the government regularly launch anti-DUI and public education campaigns to help reduce the carnage.

The direct and indirect costs of DUI-related collisions for deaths, injuries, property damage, lost wages, job loss, incarceration expense and loss of productivity is enormous. The stigma that follows persons convicted of DUI offenses often runs deep and is long lasting. There is every reason to eliminate the problem of DUI driving!

The police have limited ability to help people with the kinds of emotional or other personal problems as mentioned above; we are an enforcement entity and any prevention efforts we can carry out come in the form of public education and the threat of rigorous enforcement. We wish we could do more, as it is clear this society as a whole is in a depressed psychological and economic state. But our primary duty is to impact the problem as much as possible by aggressively patrolling in search of DUI suspects and arresting them with a "no excuses" policy. It is our hope that, just by increasing patrols for visibility and enforcement, motorists will decide in advance to never operate a motor vehicle after having consumed intoxicants of any kind. The best solution is always to designate a completely sober driver to transport people who have been drinking. In instances of an unplanned drinking event, call a friend or taxi for a ride.

Law enforcement in Stanislaus and adjacent counties will substantially increase the number of officers on patrol starting this week and continuing through January 2, 2012 in an effort to limit the damage DUI drivers can inflict on the rest of the public. Violators can expect rigorous enforcement with vehicles towed, jail bookings and no one being let off with a warning.

It is my sincere hope that everyone can have a safe holiday season, free from the threats of being killed or injured by any DUI motorists. I also feel great sadness for the people who have no one to share the holidays with, those who live in despair or who are suffering from job losses. I pray that these hard times will pass sooner than later and that those with hardships do not give up hope.
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