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DUI death, arrest rate down
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This last Labor Day Weekend period featured stepped-up Driving Under the Influence (DUI) enforcement throughout California. The Highway Patrol called it a "Maximum Enforcement Period." During the weeks preceding Labor Day, highway informational signs up and down the interstates and other major highways carried the strongly-worded message: "Over the limit. Under arrest." -- a warning to all motorists that alcohol and other intoxicants and motor vehicle operation do not mix. DUI driving is dangerous and deadly. More than half of all fatal traffic collisions involve persons who have consumed alcohol or drugs. Their ability to exercise good judgment, as well as their motor coordination, is seriously compromised by drugs and/or alcohol.

Most all law enforcement agencies throughout this state participated with increased police officer staffing, DUI checkpoints and public awareness campaigns in order to reduce the number of DUI-related collisions, injuries and deaths. The Christmas holiday season, school graduation periods, Fourth of July, Cinco de Mayo, and Labor Day Weekend are all known for increased numbers of DUI collisions and deaths. Accordingly, police agencies increase enforcement efforts in order to save lives and decrease the amount of property damage that amounts to millions of dollars each year owing to DUI-related collisions.

During the Labor Day Weekend period, California Highway Patrol officers alone arrested some 1,585 DUI motorists throughout California. In Ceres, police conducted a DUI checkpoint one evening that resulted in six DUI arrests and 36 vehicles were impounded for motorists with no license or driving on suspended drivers' licenses. Forty-eight citations were issued for various other violations. Keep in mind that DUI checkpoints are entered voluntarily by motorists, so it is somewhat surprising that one of these checkpoints netted so many violations.

Stanislaus County as a whole endured the Labor Day Weekend with zero fatalities. This is attributable to increased enforcement, public education and - a measure of luck. Statewide, however, there were 40 fatal collisions and numerous other traffic incidents resulting in injuries, property damage or both.

Nationwide, traffic collisions are down substantially. The reasons for this are that people are driving fewer miles owing to high fuel prices; the economy is poor so motorists are staying home, and, in general, the highways are less congested. It also appears that more people are driving at lower speeds to conserve fuel. This reduction in collisions was predictable, but it is, indeed, one of the more pleasant consequences of the skyrocketing oil prices.

We can certainly be pleased with the fact that no one died in Stanislaus County from DUI-related reasons during the Labor Day Weekend. We should also be able to see how avoidable and needless deaths caused by DUI-drivers really are. It is important to keep these lessons in mind, for the upcoming Holiday Season, in particular, which starts with Thanksgiving and extends all the way through New Years Day.