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DUI crackdown is on
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To help save lives this holiday season, law enforcement from 12 local agencies are launching a special "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" crackdown to stop impaired drivers and to save lives on Ceres roads.

The Stanislaus County DUI "Avoid the 12" Task Force is announcing that officers and deputies will be aggressively looking for impaired drivers and will arrest anyone caught driving under the influence.

Enforcement efforts will include: eight DUI/drivers license checkpoints, of which Ceres staged on Friday; 17 local DUI saturation patrols; a multi-agency DUI Taskforce strike team patrol; and a DUI warrant/probations sweep.

During Friday's checkpoint 862 drivers were contacted and 11 field sobriety tests were conducted with two drivers arrested for drunken driving. They were Ashley Nicole Pimentel, 26, Candelario Arreola Vasquez, 29. A total of 20 citations were issued - mostly because of unlicensed drivers -- and 11 vehicles were towed.

The CHP will deploy all available officers during two maximum enforcement periods - Christmas and New Year's weekends. The special enforcement crackdown will run until Jan. 1. DUI saturation patrols took place in Ceres on Friday and Sunday and will continue from 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 21 to 3 a.m. the next morning; from 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 22 to 3 a.m. the next morning; 8 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 23 to 3 a.m.; from 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 28 to 3 a.m.; from 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 29 to 3 a.m.; and from 8 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 30 to 3 a.m.

"Lots of people will be out enjoying themselves this busy holiday season and all the festivities that go along with it," said Ceres Police Chief Art deWerk, who is the task force chief. "We want everyone to be safe on our roadways. That's why we will be stepping up enforcement to catch and arrest impaired drivers. The police will accept no excuses and there will be no excuses."

During 2010, more than 10,000 people were killed nationwide in vehicle traffic crashes involving an impaired driver, of which 15 died in Stanislaus County and 791 in California.

Police recognize the holiday season as a particularly dangerous time. During December 2010, 30 percent of all fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crash involved alcohol-impaired drivers. Data also shows that among those alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities, 71 percent occurred when drivers had nearly twice the legal limit blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) or higher.

"No one ever thinks that their holiday celebration will end in jail, or worse, in a hospital or the morgue," said Ceres Police Sergeant Chris Perry. "But for those who include alcohol in their celebrations and then get behind the wheel, this is too often the case."

Violators face jail time, loss of a driver license, and steep financial consequences such as higher insurance rates, attorney fees, court costs, lost time at work, and the potential loss of job.

The Avoid the 12 coalition said there are three simple steps people can take to stay safe and out of trouble:

1. Plan ahead. Those who will be drinking should not plan to drive. Designate a sober driver or find another safe way home. Even one too many drinks increases the risk of a crash while driving a motor vehicle.

2. If you are impaired, find another way home. Use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, and use public transportation.

3. Be responsible. If someone you know is drinking, do not let them get behind the wheel. If you see an impaired driver on the road, call 9-1-1 to report them and possibly save someone's life.