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Enforcement of DUI laws jumps during holidays
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The driving under the influence laws are always a policing priority throughout the year, but during the holiday season (mid-November through the beginning of January) in particular, is when DUI-involved collisions statistics tend to spike. This happens for many reasons, but the holidays seem to set the stage for festive drinking, parties and various social gatherings. The colder weather and shorter number of daylight hours also are contributing factors.

Because more people are killed or injured in DUI collisions during the holiday period, law enforcement has, for years, increased its DUI enforcement efforts during this time. This includes more patrols, DUI checkpoints and a greater effort to increase public awareness through education. There will be many DUI checkpoints throughout this county through Jan. 2, representing a multi-agency approach to enforcement. These checkpoints are made possible by funding from the California Office of Traffic Safety grant through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and through a high level of cooperation between the various law enforcement agencies within Stanislaus County. The "Avoid the 12" participating agencies in this county are the cities of: Riverbank, Ceres, Turlock, Waterford, Patterson, Newman, Hughson, Modesto, Oakdale, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, California Highway Patrol and California State University, Stanislaus Police Department.

It is not uncommon for highly intoxicated drivers to enter DUI checkpoints believing that they are "alright" to drive and can pass sobriety tests. This fact alone gives us a good indication of just how severely intoxicants can affect a motorist's judgment and decision-making ability, not to mention the effects they have on their ability to see properly, process information and react physically to changing conditions and traffic on the roadways.

DUI checkpoints detect unlicensed drivers as well as motorists under the influence, but one of the major objectives is to publicize the DUI issue in a highly visible fashion, while reminding everyone that the law enforcement community is serious about curtailing the DUI problem. Law-abiding citizens, generally, also support the effort, as it often seems that the innocent motorists are the ones who suffer the most at the hands of intoxicated drivers.

And, of course, the checkpoints do not represent the major DUI enforcement effort. From now through the beginning of the New Year, there are more police officers assigned to patrol the streets, specifically looking for intoxicated drivers. At times, it may appear that the streets have reached the "saturation point" with police officers whose primary duties are to detect and arrest motorists who have been drinking alcohol, or are under the influence of drugs (illegal or prescribed), or a combination of these.

It is surprising how many people believe that if a doctor has prescribed a particular drug, even though it may affect their coordination and judgment, it is legal drive after ingestion because the "doctor gave it to me." That is simply not the case. Any substance that adversely affects a person's ability to drive safely, whether the substance is legal or not, prescribed by a doctor or not, can serve as the basis for a DUI arrest and subsequent conviction.

Regardless of the substance that causes impaired driving, the message is, simply put, one of "zero tolerance" against DUI driving. We are all participating in "Avoid the 12" efforts because most all police officers have seen the ravages of DUI collisions. The numerous deaths, huge financial losses, job losses, crippling injuries, destroyed families, and the embarrassment and stigma that follow surviving DUI drivers are all reminders of the sad consequences of DUI driving. The message is "don't drink or use drugs that cause impairment and drive." Let a sober person drive and plan ahead so you don't feel like you have no other way to get home. To do otherwise might have a very expensive price tag, including death or injuries to yourself or others. Have a safe and wonderful holiday season!